Medication or surgical abortion

When you ring to make an appointment you will be asked if you have any medical or health conditions including your weight as the services at each of the different hospitals have specific criteria for providing an abortion. At this time you may be referred to a different hospital to make an appointment because

  • it is closer to where you live
  • the waiting period may be shorter or
  • because you do not meet the criteria for an abortion at the service you initially contacted

When attending for your consultation the doctor and health worker will then assess your physical health as some health and medical conditions can impact on your choice of abortion procedure and at which hospital you may need to attend for your procedure.

The following table provides a comparison of what you can expect for each of the procedures. 

For detailed information on either of the two abortion techniques, see the following pages:

Medication abortions Surgical abortions
Can be used from 4 weeks after last period May not be available before 6 weeks from last period
For a pregnancy of less than 9 weeks for a pregnancy of more than 7 weeks
Resembles a natural miscarriage Involves inserting a tube into the uterus to remove the contents
Abortion process lasts one to two days The operation procedure is completed within 10 to 15 minutes.
Women can expect to be at the centre for 2 hours on one day but only 10 to 20 minutes on return visit Women can expect to be having two clinic visits and be at the health facility for up to five hours on the day of operation procedure.
The abortion usually happens at home and support is required The abortion operation happens in a health facility. Overnight support is advised after an anaesthetic. A support person is welcome to attend with you.
May be painful for 2 to 3 hours or more after taking the medication May be mildly painful afterwards when the uterus contracts
Longer period of bleeding up to several weeks Shorter period of bleeding
Anaesthesia is not needed. Pain medication will be provided for you Pain medication, light sedation and anaesthesia are required for the procedure.
Severe complications are rare Severe complications are rare

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea screening is important for women having an abortion. See the SHine SA website for information about testing and treatment.

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