Medical and surgical abortions

Did you know that there are two ways of getting an abortion? These are a medical abortion where the abortion is done by taking pills. The other method is a surgical abortion which is a same-day medical procedure done at a clinic or hospital. Find your nearest clinic or hospital here.

A medical abortion is usually done for a pregnancy which is 12 weeks old or less and a surgical abortion for pregnancy which is older than 12 weeks up to 20 weeks.

You can also get a surgical abortion if your pregnancy is 12 weeks old or less, but the first option is a medical abortion.

Remember, you have the right to be told about both types of abortion procedures by the healthcare provider counselling you. The healthcare provider will often recommend the best method, but you need to be comfortable with the method before going ahead with the abortion.

Abortion by pills (medical abortion)

Medical abortion is when you only take pills (tablets) to have an abortion. You take two types of pills orally (by mouth). The first pill you take is called mifepristone. It stops the embryo from growing. It also starts the abortion process by making the cervix widen. The cervix is a ring of muscle at the top of the vaginal passage, sort of like a ‘doorway’ into the uterus or womb. The second pill is called misoprostol. You take it the next day after the first pill. This second pill causes the uterus/womb to contract and push out what is in it. Your healthcare provider will tell you exactly when to take the misoprostol.

A follow-up appointment is booked a week or two after a medical abortion to make sure that the abortion was successful. If the abortion was not 100% successful (not everything came out), then a surgical abortion will need to be done.

Abortion by same-day procedure (surgical abortion)

A surgical abortion is usually performed from 13 weeks of pregnancy. It is a same-day procedure that is done at a healthcare facility. You and your healthcare provider will discuss if a surgical abortion is the best option for you.

For this procedure, you may be given the same pills that are given during a medical abortion so that the womb gets ready, and the cervix starts to widen. This makes it easier for the surgical abortion to be done.

There are two methods available:

  1. Manual vacuum aspiration (MVA): This is when an instrument is used to suck out what is inside the uterus. Once this is done, the healthcare provider may remove anything that is still in the womb.
  2. Dilation & Evacuation: This procedure is done from 15 weeks of pregnancy. It is recommended for pregnancies that are quite far along.

What happens after a surgical abortion?

After a surgical abortion:

  • You will be asked to lie down for a while before being sent home.
  • You will also be given pain medication.
  • If you choose to get an IUD as your contraceptive method then it will be inserted immediately after the surgical procedure.
  • You may be booked for a follow-up appointment just to make sure you are doing well and don’t have any concerns.

You are likely to bleed less after having a surgical abortion unlike with a medical abortion, but it is important to discuss any concerns you may have with your healthcare provider before and after your procedure.

Check out these fast facts about the MVA procedure via My Body, My Choice:

Making the choice to have an abortion is not always easy. You may need to talk to someone about your feelings and thoughts. Trained counsellors at loveLife are here for you. Reach them by clicking here.

Do you have questions about what the SA law says about abortion? Click here to find out.

Are you thinking about getting an abortion but you’re not sure where to start? Find out here.

Getting an illegal abortion is dangerous and puts your health at risk. Learn how to spot illegal providers in this article.

Share Article: