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How Early Can You Terminate a Pregnancy?

If you’re pregnant and you don’t want to be then you might be wondering how quickly you can get an abortion. You should be able to have a termination as soon as you notice you’re pregnant, around the time you miss your first period. If you find out later, you may be faced with a different issue as there are also time limits on how late you can have an abortion.

Early Pregnancy Termination

How Is a Pregnancy Dated?

We usually date a pregnancy by when you had your last period, even though this isn’t when you actually got pregnant. It’s just easier to tell when your period started than it is to know when you ovulated. The first day of your last period is considered day 1 of the pregnancy. Depending on the length of your cycle, ovulation usually happens about two weeks later. Your next period will be due a couple of weeks after that.

First Signs of Pregnancy

The most obvious sign that you might be pregnant is that you’ve missed a period. As you can see from the dating information, you are considered about 4 weeks pregnant by the time you miss a period. However, you will only actually have conceived about two weeks before your period was due.

You might have noticed some other changes in your body such as nausea, fatigue, or your breasts feeling tender. Some early pregnancy symptoms like mood swings and headaches can actually be easy to confuse with pre-menstrual symptoms and you could also have some bleeding or cramping too. You might not even realise you’ve missed a period.

How Early Can You Take a Pregnancy Test?

The first thing to do if you think you might be pregnant is to take a test. You can pick up a pregnancy test at any pharmacy. The instructions are pretty easy to follow, but it’s a good idea to check how long you’ll need to wait and how to read the results before you start. If the test confirms that you are pregnant then you’ll need to think about your next steps.

It’s usually best to wait until you’ve missed a period before taking a pregnancy test, but if you’re worried you can take one a little earlier. Some tests will work 4-5 days before your period is due, but make sure you check the packet as this isn’t always the case. You might also want to repeat the test a little later to confirm a negative result.

Visiting the Abortion Clinic

If the test tells you that you’re pregnant, you should take some time to think about what you want to do. You might want to talk to your partner, a friend, or close family member about it. However, it can also help to seek advice from an expert. If you aren’t sure what to do and want more information on your options, you can make an appointment at an abortion clinic. You don’t need to make any decisions before your consultation as you’ll talk about all the options. The doctor won’t pressure you to make any particular choice. You’ll just get the advice you need to make your own choice.

You should try to make the appointment as soon as possible as you have more options early in the pregnancy. You’ll also have more time to think if you need it. If you want to end the pregnancy quickly then a private clinic is a good choice as you won’t need to wait for the appointment. You’ll still need an initial consultation to discuss the options with a doctor before you return to have the actual abortion.

When Can You Take the Abortion Pill?

The abortion pill is the most common choice for an early abortion. You can take it any time after your first missed period, when you will be four weeks pregnant. You can have a medical abortion up to nine weeks.

If you want to have your abortion as soon as possible then it’s worth mentioning that you will need two appointments, two days apart, to complete a medical termination. It may therefore be quicker to have a surgical abortion if you are far enough into the pregnancy.

When Can You Have a Surgical Abortion?

If you aren’t able to take the abortion pill or you prefer to have a surgical termination, you will have to wait a little longer. Two different types of surgical abortion are available:

  • Manual Vacuum Aspiration can be performed from 7 weeks and is available up to 15 weeks
  • Surgical termination of pregnancy (STOP) is available from 15 weeks to 19 weeks

Although terminations can be performed quite late in pregnancy, it’s best to get help as soon as possible. You have more options for abortion earlier on and there are less likely to be complications if you can end the pregnancy earlier.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception is not an abortion. It can prevent you from getting pregnant if you take it within 72 hours of unprotected sex. If it’s still early enough to prevent a pregnancy then this is a much better option than an abortion. All you’ll need to do is take the emergency pill or have a contraceptive IUD or IUS fitted. It will stop you from ovulating, which means there will be no egg available for fertilisation. Emergency contraception is most effective when you take it as soon as possible, but no contraception provides 100% protection. If you end up pregnant anyway then you will be able to have an abortion any time after your first missed period at 4 weeks.

You should be able to arrange an abortion quickly as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant, especially if you choose a private clinic. Around 40% of abortions in England and Wales are performed before 10 weeks and 90% are done by 13 weeks.

How long did it take you to realise you were pregnant? Did you make an appointment right away or take some time to think first?

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