How Many Weeks Do You Have to Be to Get an Abortion?

If you’re pregnant and considering your options, it’s important to be aware of the time limits on abortion. You probably don’t want to stay pregnant any longer than necessary, so you’ll want to know how quickly you can have an abortion. It’s also vital to be aware of the limits for different types of abortion. You won’t be able to have a termination later in the pregnancy (unless it is medically necessary).

How to Calculate the Length of Your Pregnancy

In order to understand which options are available, you’ll need to know how long you’ve been pregnant. Pregnancies are usually dated according to when you had your last period. Although the conception actually takes place a couple of weeks later than this (on average), it’s much easier to count from your period than from ovulation.

You probably don’t know exactly when you ovulated as there aren’t any obvious signs. It can depend on the length and regularity of your menstrual cycle. Ovulation usually happens around day 10-12, but it can be several days sooner or later than this. It can also be difficult to know when you had the sex that led to conception, even if you do know when you were ovulating. The egg is available for about 24 hours, but sperm can survive for five days or more. Any sex you had in the week before ovulation could therefore be responsible for the pregnancy.

Since we don’t usually know when the conception happened, we date pregnancies from the start of the menstrual cycle instead. The first day of your period is considered the first day of your cycle. The first day of the period before you conceived is also considered the first day of your pregnancy. By the time you miss your first period, you will therefore be about 4 weeks pregnant.

What if You’re Not Sure?

Working out how long you’ve been pregnant isn’t always easy. If you don’t keep track of when your period starts or you have an irregular cycle, you might not know when to start counting from. You might still be able to estimate how long you’ve been pregnant if you know about when you had your last period. You might remember having it during a particular occasion or know how many weeks you’ve been wondering where your period is.

However, there is a way you can find out for sure how far along you are. When you visit a private abortion clinic, the doctor can perform an ultrasound scan to check on the pregnancy. The scan can confirm that you are pregnant, rule out issues such as ectopic pregnancy, and give you an accurate date for the pregnancy.

Even if you know when your last period started, it can still be a good idea to get confirmation from the scan. How long you’ve been pregnant will determine which types of abortion are suitable for you, so it’s important to find out for sure.

Earliest Date You Can Have an Abortion

Abortions can be carried out as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. In most cases, this will be after your first missed period at 4 weeks. You can make your first appointment at the abortion clinic before you miss a period if you already know that you‘re pregnant. However, many women wait a little longer before taking a pregnancy test or visiting the clinic. About 80% will speak to a doctor within the first 10 weeks of the pregnancy.

How Quickly Can You Have the Abortion?

Once you have seen the doctor, you can have the abortion very quickly. At a private clinic, you will be able to make appointment on the same or next day. You won’t have the abortion during your first visit as it is simply a chance to talk with the doctor about your options. If you decide to go ahead with the abortion then the procedure could be completed in just a few days.

You will need two further appointments, two days apart, in order to take the medications required for a medical abortion. Most women will have a medical abortion if they have a termination this early in the pregnancy. If you decide to have a surgical abortion instead then you will only need one appointment for treatment after the initial consultation.

Although the procedure can be completed within just a few days of your initial consultation, it is important to take as much time as you need. If you’re sure about your decision then you may want to complete the treatment as soon as possible. However, it is also possible to take some time to think about your options or talk to someone about the pregnancy. You won’t be put under any pressure to make a decision quickly, although your doctor will ensure that you know when abortion will no longer be an option.

Latest Date You Can Have an Abortion

The legal time limit on abortion in the UK is 24 weeks, but most terminations are carried out much earlier. About 90% of abortions are performed before 13 weeks. Later abortions are usually only performed for medical reasons.

As well as the overall time limit, there are also limits on when certain types of abortion can be performed. You can have:

  • Medical termination (with the abortion pill) up to 9 weeks
  • Manual Vacuum Aspiration up to 12 weeks
  • Surgical termination by Dilation and Curettage up to 19 weeks (but usually only performed after 9 weeks)

We only perform terminations up to 19 weeks. Different kinds of surgical terminations can be performed by some clinics after this time, but the procedure is more complicated.

Although you can have an abortion up to 19 weeks, it is a good idea to see the doctor as soon as you can. You will have more time to make your decision and you’ll have more options if you decide to have an abortion. The risk of complications is also lower if you have the procedure earlier in the pregnancy.

How soon did you know you were pregnant? Did you wait before taking a test or seeing a doctor?

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