Click to find your nearest clinic
Abortion & Vasectomy Services - Marie Stopes Clinics

Abortion: frequently asked questions

Unprotected sex
Pregnancy tests
Abortion advice & information
Arranging an appointment for an abortion
The risks of abortion
What happens at an abortion clinic?
Types of abortion procedure
After an abortion
Legal issues and abortion

Unprotected sex

I’ve just had unprotected sex what should I do?
If you have had unprotected sex, or if you think that the form of contraception that you used hasn’t worked properly, you could be at risk of pregnancy. After unprotected sex, emergency contraception can help prevent an unwanted pregnancy developing. Emergency contraception comes in the form of a pill or an inter-uterine device (IUD). The emergency contraceptive pill (wrongly known as the “morning after pill”) can be taken up to 3 days after unprotected sex and the emergency contraceptive (IUD) can be fitted up to 5 days after.

Emergency contraception is more effective the quicker you act after unprotected sex. You should only use it in an emergency and not as a regular form of contraception. Please note that as well as pregnancy you could be at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and should visit your local genito-urinary medicine clinic (GUM clinic), Marie Stopes south London STI clinic or Marie Stopes central London STI clinic for testing.

I’ve had unprotected sex, could I be pregnant?
You are at risk of pregnancy if you have had unprotected sex and should access emergency contraception as soon as possible. The emergency contraception pill is available up to three days after unprotected sex and the IUD (coil) can be fitted up to five days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. The emergency contraception pill is more effective the sooner you take it - ideally within 12 hours of unprotected sex. If your next period is late, you should carry out a pregnancy test.

Where is emergency contraception available?
Emergency contraception is available from your doctor/GP, family planning clinic, chemist/pharmacy, youth services such as Brook Advisory and other specialist private clinics such as Marie Stopes International.
<back to top>

Pregnancy tests

Where can I get a pregnancy test?
You can buy a pregnancy testing kit at chemists and supermarkets and do this at home, or alternatively visit your GP, family planning clinic, youth clinic such as Brook or Connexions or Marie Stopes International who will carry out a pregnancy test for you. You can normally have an early test just after a missed period.

Am I definitely pregnant?
If the result of your pregnancy test is positive it is important that you visit a health professional who will be able to confirm your pregnancy and offer pregnancy advice.

What should I do if the pregnancy test is positive?
If your pregnancy test is positive you really need to think about what you want to do. You have three choices – continue with the pregnancy, continue with the pregnancy and consider adoption or fostering, or end the pregnancy through abortion.

What are the symptoms of pregnancy?
The symptoms of pregnancy are missing your period, (although some women can still have periods), having tender breasts, feeling queasy or sick and tiredness. A pregnancy test needs to be done to confirm if you are pregnant or not.
<back to top>

Abortion advice & information

What is an abortion?
An abortion is where a pregnancy is ended. There are several types of abortions and Marie Stopes International offers surgical and medical abortion options.

Why do women have abortions?
There are a number of reasons why women may not wish to continue with a pregnancy and may seek abortion services. Deciding to have an abortion can be one of life’s most difficult decisions, that is why Marie Stopes International believe that all women should have the right to choose for themselves. If a woman feels that an abortion is in her or her family's best interests, then she should have access to safe, supportive and non-judgemental advice and help.

How many women have abortions?
The latest statistics show that there were 195,296 abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2008 (this figure includes residents and non residents).

Where can I have an abortion?
In the UK abortions are carried out in NHS hospitals and private clinics such as Marie Stopes International.

Where can I go for abortion help and advice?
If you are considering abortion or are unsure what to do, you should talk to a health professional. Your doctor or family planning clinic will be able to provide confidential advice. Alternatively, you can contact a specialist organisation like Marie Stopes International on 0845 300 8090.

Where can I find out more about abortion?
There is a lot of information about abortion available but unfortunately, not all information is accurate or impartial. You can get more information from Marie Stopes International who are completely pro-choice and will support you whatever your decision. Your GP or local family planning clinic, or young persons clinic like Brook, should also be able to offer you information about abortion.

How soon do I have to make a decision about abortion?
Although it might be difficult, it is best if you can make a decision as soon as possible. The earlier you make your decision the more abortion options are open to you.

Can anyone help me make a decision about abortion?
If you are confused about how you feel about abortion, you could talk to family and friends. Alternatively, you may prefer to talk to a counsellor. Your GP will be able to recommend a counsellor or Marie Stopes International can arrange this, there is also an online counselling guide available which may help you.

Is it up to me if I have an abortion?
It is entirely your right to choose whether or not you would like to have an abortion. No one else can make this decision for you.

Can my boyfriend / parents stop me from seeking an abortion?
No, your boyfriend/parents can not stop you from seeking an abortion. It is your right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. Abortion services are confidential and no one will be told about your visit unless you want them to be - including your parents and doctor.

How old do I have to be to have an abortion?
Any woman has the right to access abortion services although younger women are advised to have counselling to talk their feelings and options through. Abortion services are confidential and no one will be told about your visit unless you want to include your parents or doctor.

Will an abortion go on my medical record?
If you access abortion services through the NHS, it will go on your medical record only if you are referred by your GP or give permission for your doctor to be contacted. You may be able to access NHS abortion services via a family planning clinic or young person’s clinic like Brook without your GP knowing. If you access abortion services privately it is your decision as to whether or not your GP is notified.

Can I have more than one abortion?
Yes, women are free to seek abortion services on more than one occasion, however there are very reliable methods of contraception available which if used properly should reduce the risk of an unplanned pregnancy resulting in abortion.

Is there a link between abortion and breast cancer?
There is no proven link between abortion and breast cancer.

Can a woman with learning disabilities have an abortion?
Yes, a woman with learning disabilities can access abortion services at Marie Stopes International as long as she fully understands what is involved and is able to give consent. Counselling may be required.
<back to top>

Arranging an appointment for an abortion

How long do I have to wait for an abortion appointment?
If you are coming to see Marie Stopes International for help with abortion we can normally see you very quickly within a few days. If you go to an NHS hospital for an abortion the wait time varies between areas.

How do I book an abortion appointment?
If you would like free NHS treatment, you need to visit your GP, family planning clinic or young people’s clinic like Brook, who will arrange an appointment for you. Marie Stopes international has arrangements to see women under the NHS in many areas but you would normally need a referral letter. If you would like to see us privately we can arrange an appointment straight away without you needing to visit your GP.  For more information about appointments call 0845 300 8090 or book online.

Will the NHS pay for my abortion?
Treatment with the NHS is free and you will normally need to see your GP, a family planning clinic or young people’s clinic like Brook for a referral. There is a cost for accessing abortion services privately at Marie Stopes International.

I’m on benefits; can I get an abortion for free?
You will be able to access abortion services free through the NHS. You will normally need to see your GP, family planning clinic, or young people’s clinic such as Brook. You will either be seen by the NHS or will be referred to a specialist clinic such as Marie Stopes International for treatment funded by the NHS.

I am visiting the UK from overseas, can I have an abortion?
For an NHS abortion you have to be eligible for NHS care and you will need to check this by calling your local Primary Care Trust or talking to your GP. If you do not qualify for an NHS abortion, you can still access abortion services in the UK privately. 
<back to top>

The risks of abortion

What are the risks associated with abortion?
There is very little risk associated with early abortion and no evidence at all that a straightforward abortion has any effect on future fertility or any other aspect of general health. However, any surgical procedure or medical treatment carries some risks and it is important that you are aware of what these are. For more information about risks associated with abortion download our abortion questions and answers booklet.    

Does abortion affect fertility?
There is very little risk associated with early abortion and no evidence at all that a straightforward abortion has any effect on future fertility. 
<back to top>


What happens at an abortion clinic?

Do I need to bring anything with me?
When attending a Marie Stopes International centre for abortion services you need to bring your referral letter if you are being referred by a medical professional under the NHS. This is not needed if you are coming privately and paying for your treatment. It is also important for you to bring any medication you are taking with you.

Can my partner/friend/relative come with me for my abortion appointment?
It will not be possible for companions to stay with you during your appointment at Marie Stopes centres as it can get very busy. If someone is coming with you they will be asked to leave during your admission and return for you later.

What happens at an abortion clinic?
When someone goes to an abortion clinic they will see a doctor or nurse and possibly a counsellor if they wish to talk about their situation. Medical professionals need to determine the reasons for the person requesting an abortion and under the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act, two doctor’s signatures are needed for an abortion to take place. Women seeking an abortion will have a medical check and some tests, a scan to determine how many weeks pregnant they are and time to talk about the abortion treatment options. The abortion may be on the day of the consultation or arranged for another day.

Will I have an anaesthetic with abortion?
In the early stages of abortion it is possible to have a choice of anaesthetic. Sometimes a general anaesthetic (where you are asleep) is not necessary with early abortion, but you will have a choice. There are health risks associated with general anaesthetic particularly if you are overweight, suffer from any heart condition, or have asthma and if you choose not to have an anaesthetic you will recover more quickly from your abortion. Marie Stopes International offers all options - medical abortion (abortion pill) or surgical abortion with no anaesthetic, sedation or general anaesthetic.
<back to top>

Types of abortion procedure  

What types of abortion procedure are there?

Medical abortion and surgical abortion.

What does medical abortion (the abortion pill) involve?
Medical abortion or the abortion pill is an alternative to surgical abortion and is available before nine weeks of pregnancy at Marie Stopes International. It means taking two lots of pills over two visits (this can be on the same day or separate days) which causes the passing of the pregnancy.

Does having the medical abortion (the abortion pill) hurt?
Women may experience discomfort, very strong cramps and heavy bleeding with medical abortion. This normally lasts for a few days until the pregnancy has passed. At Marie Stopes International we have a 24 hour abortion aftercare helpline which offers support and advice to women after the abortion pill.

How long does medical abortion take?
The abortion may take place within four to five hours and is usually completed within one to two days. Very occasionally it can take up to two weeks to pass the pregnancy.

Will I have to stay overnight between medical abortion treatment tablets?
No, at Marie Stopes International centres you are not required to stay overnight between medical abortion treatment tablets.

What happens if I do not complete the medical abortion (second pill)?
Once the first medical abortion treatment is given, if you change your mind and decide to continue with the pregnancy, we cannot guarantee that the pregnancy will not have been damaged.

What drugs are used for medical abortion and what do they do?
Two different types of medication are used for this treatment at Marie Stopes International Mifegynae and Misoprostol which have been found to be effective in causing a pregnancy to pass.

Can I have medical abortion treatment, if I take medication?
We would advise you to bring any medication that you are currently taking along to the clinic with you so that a full and accurate medical history can be taken before abortion options are discussed.

What does surgical abortion involve?
Surgical abortion is the most common type of abortion and is a simple procedure where gentle suction is used to empty the uterus. In the early stages of pregnancy, it is possible to have a choice of anaesthetic options. Many women chose not to have an anaesthetic.

Does surgical abortion hurt?
It is likely that women may experience some discomfort which is often likened to a very strong period pain. As everyone experiences pain differently it is impossible to generalise on how women feel. Most women who choose to have no anaesthetic report that any pain is bearable, only lasts a very short time and quickly subsides once the procedure is over.

Will a female doctor perform my abortion?
Marie Stopes International has both male and female doctors working in our clinics. If you would specifically like to see a female doctor you would need to discuss this with us in advance of your appointment.

How long does surgical abortion take?
Surgical abortion at Marie Stopes International centres takes approximately 5 – 10 minutes. The length of stay at the hospital or clinic varies but is usually just a maximum of a few hours. If an abortion is being carried out at a later stage, the stay at the centre may be longer. 
<back to top>

After an abortion

Do I need to come back for a check up after an abortion?
It is not necessary to come back to Marie Stopes International after your abortion unless you have any specific concerns or would like to talk to a trained counsellor.

All clients are given very detailed abortion aftercare information and can phone our 24 hour helpline at anytime to speak to our aftercare nurses with any worries or concerns.

How will I feel after an abortion?
After an abortion it is quite normal to feel a bit low for a few days. Most women feel a sense of relief, but others may experience difficult emotions. At Marie Stopes clinics specialist counsellors are available if you need to talk through your feelings at any time after your abortion.

How will I know if my abortion has worked?
The failure rate of abortion is about 1 in 100. Following abortion you can check that the procedure has been successful by doing a pregnancy test 3 weeks later once the pregnancy hormones have subsided. At Marie Stopes International we have a 24 hour abortion aftercare helpline on 0845 120 3641 which offers support and advice to women after abortion. Also anyone can return to the clinic for a check up after their abortion.

What happens to the foetus after an abortion?
All hospitals and clinics in the UK have strict guidelines and procedures regarding what happens to the foetus after abortion. If this is something you would like to know you can always ask the doctor or the nurse when you attend the hospital or clinic.

Do I need to use contraception after an abortion?
Yes, it is very important for you to use contraception after an abortion as you can become pregnant again within one week of treatment. There is a wide range of contraceptive methods available so whatever your age, health, lifestyle and preference there will be one to suit you.

Can I have sex after an abortion?
Yes, although it is important that you do not have sex for two weeks after an abortion as there is a risk of infection.

Can I have children after having an abortion?
Yes, there is no evidence at all that a straightforward abortion has any effect on future fertility or any other aspect of general health.

Will my body be different after an abortion?
Your body will not be any different after an abortion.

Will anyone know that I have had an abortion?
No, Marie Stopes International promises to keep details of your appointment completely confidential. It is completely your decision who you tell about your abortion – this includes your partner, parents and GP. We will not contact anyone without your permission.

How soon can I go back to work after an abortion?
Most women return to work the next day after an abortion, but this is entirely up to you. If you have a very physically demanding job you may want to take a few days off.

Can I use tampons again after an abortion?
You may use tampons after an abortion although it is important that you do not begin to use tampons again until your next period.

Do you provide contraception after an abortion?
All clients who visit Marie Stopes International for abortion services are encouraged to leave with a method of contraception. Most methods of contraception are included in the cost of your abortion. You can become pregnant again within one week of an abortion so it really is important to start using contraception immediately.

Can I use contraception straight after an abortion?
Although we advise women not to have sex for two weeks following an abortion, you can become pregnant again within one week of an abortion so it is really important that you start using contraception immediately to avoid this happening.

Are there any permanent methods of contraception?
Sterilisation is the only permanent method of contraception available for men and women. Vasectomy is a simpler procedure for men than female sterilisation is for women as it is a much less complex procedure and has a shorter recovery time.

Who can I talk to after an abortion?
Marie Stopes International offers specialist one to one counselling should you need to talk through any unexpected feelings or emotions. Call 0845 120 3641 for more information. Alternatively visit your GP for advice.
<back to top>


Legal issues and abortion

What is the legal time limit for abortion?
Abortion is legal in the UK up to the 24th week of pregnancy. However, if there is a substantial risk to the woman's life or if there are foetal abnormalities there is no time limit. The abortion time limit varies from country to country.

Is abortion legal in Ireland?
Yes abortion is legal but limited under the law in northern and southern Ireland, however if you live on the island you can still visit a clinic in the UK for abortion services. You are able to get advice and information from health professionals in Ireland about abortion and all the options open to you. Click here for the Marie Stopes International pages for women from Ireland

For help in Ireland have a look at the Reproductive Choices website

<back to top>

For more information about abortion have a look at the following:

Abortion costs
Abortion law
Abortion treatment options
Abortion leaflets
Abortion clinics in the UK
NHS abortion services
Information about abortion in other languages


Privacy Statement