Contributor: Lisa Hou
How do abortions work?
Nearly one in four people with a uterus will have an abortion in their lifetime. Abortions are very common medical procedures that people have if they are pregnant and do not want to be. Depending on the timeline of the pregnancy, you can opt for either a medical abortion or surgical abortion. A medical abortion comes to you as a pill, at times it’s two pills taken within days from each other. This is generally done at home or wherever you feel most safe (maybe at your friend's place or an older relative's). You might hear the combination of the pills referred to as Mifegymiso (the Canadian brand name). The pills are essentially an “anti-hormone”. This just means the pills block the effects of progesterone, the hormone that allows a pregnancy to continue. You will be able to choose the medical abortion route if you are within the first 9-10 weeks of pregnancy.
After those first 9-10 weeks, you will have to get a surgical abortion, which is always done in-clinic unlike medical abortions. A surgical abortion can also be an option if you're in the second trimester. With the surgical abortion you will typically be prescribed pain medication for the procedure. They will use a dilator to open up your cervix, then a vacuum-like device (long straw-like tube) to remove the tissue from the uterus.
Both types of abortions are very common procedures for people wanting to terminate their pregnancy.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting abortions, they are very effective and safe. If you have obstacles in your life preventing you from making the best decision for yourself or just want to talk things through, reach out to someone. Our chat is always open. We also recommend locating your local pro-choice clinic or helplines for the most thorough advice!
Where can I get an abortion in Canada?
In short, you can get an abortion at health clinics or at the hospital. Some cities have clinics that are dedicated to women's health and often perform abortions. Frustratingly, there are challenges that someone might face accessing abortion care depending on the province. Check out this source: https://www.actioncanadashr.org/resources/factsheets-guidelines/2019-09-19-access-glance-abortion-services-canada
for more detail about abortion access province to province. Let's work towards one day when abortion access will be easily available to everyone of all communities and regions!
How much do abortions cost?
If you are fully covered by an insurance plan, you will not be charged for the abortion. There are additional fees like abortion medication and doctor’s notes that might cost a relatively small fee. If you do not have medical coverage, medical abortions range around $350-400. With a surgical abortion there’s even a bigger range, costing anywhere between $450-900.
Wow. There’s still a long way to go before abortions become easily obtainable to all women in Canada. If you are looking to get an abortion and believe you might have trouble affording it without medical coverage, we still advise that you to contact your local abortion clinic and helplines for further steps you could take!
How soon can I have an abortion?
Across Canada, there is no regulatory waiting period. It’s recommended that the abortion is done as early as possible. You can get it done as soon as you test positive!
Back on the topic of cost without coverage, with a surgical abortion the longer the pregnancy progression the more expensive the procedure might be. So in most cases, best to try to get the abortion as soon as you feel ready!
Are abortions safe?
Both the surgical and medical abortions are very safe. The surgical abortion is noted to be one of the safest medical procedures. As always, don’t be afraid to ask all the questions you need in order for you to feel assured about your procedure!
Do abortions hurt?
Unfortunately, there’s no exact answer to this! It really depends person-to-person. With a medical abortion you might experience a heavier-than-usual bleed, along with cramping, headache, nausea, fatigue - up to a day or two. You are typically sent home with pain medication for a medical abortion. With a surgical abortion, it’s also likely that the doctor or nurse will provide you with some pain medication or mild sedation for the procedure. Sometimes the feeling is associated with strong menstrual cramps, however some people may only feel slight discomfort. (Check out the next question for what might come after an abortion)
What are the common side effects of getting an abortion?
Most people will experience a period-like bleeding of some sort; the bleeding can vary person-to-person. The bleeding can be light spotting for some, while some people experience a heavier bleed. It's normal to pass blood clots while you’re bleeding which you may notice in the toilet or on a menstrual product (however anything bigger than a “golf ball” would be considered abnormal). A common complication is infection, which can be reduced by wearing pads not tampons and waiting to have sex.
Other normal side effects include: cramps, nausea/vomiting, breast tenderness, fatigue.
Symptoms you should be cautious of include: fever, excessive bleeding (heavy for 12 hours or more), strong odour from discharge, chills, severe pain. These are signs that you should seek medical care immediately.
Are abortions always effective?
Abortions are extremely effective in terminating a pregnancy!
The surgical abortion is effective 99% of the time. The medical abortion works between 94-98% of the time when you are up to 9 weeks pregnant. The effectiveness of the medical abortion decreases with the progression of the pregnancy, however it is likely that you will be given an extra dose of medicine. The extra dose will boost the effectiveness to about 98-99%.
Is it okay to have multiple abortions?
There is no evidence to suggest that it is unsafe to have multiple abortions in your life. Having more than one abortion has no impact when it comes to infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, etc. Although we will say that there should be more resources surrounding this question! For such a common question, there’s not enough easily accessible information for the average person.
What can I expect before, during, and after an abortion?
Before your abortion, you might receive some sort of pain medication and/or sedation. You might also be given medication that helps open up your cervix. You are generally offered emotional support in the form of counselling with a professional. This person is there to chat if you need to. The doctor administering a surgical procedure will use a dilator to open up your cervix then a thin tube will be inserted. The tube will start sucking to remove the pregnancy tissue out of your uterus. This procedure will likely take around 5-10 minutes. Part of aftercare, it’s typically recommended that you wait at least two weeks before having sex or have vaginal insertion of any sort.
It’s not advisable for you to drive yourself home. Some doctors/nurses might not even advise you to drive after the first 12 hours. Typically, you can resume normal activity the next day. Just make sure to get proper rest after your procedure.
Will getting an abortion affect my fertility in the future?
There is no evidence to support that getting an abortion will impact your fertility. You can even get pregnant within weeks of getting an abortion. And don’t be afraid to ask your doctors about questions like this, they get these all the time!
Will having an abortion hurt my relationship with my partner?
Unfortunately, we can’t predict this. If you feel like the abortion was necessary than nothing or no one can stop that from being the right choice for you! If you need counselling surrounding the procedure, there are generally resources for you through the clinic or through your provincial information lines. As always, our chat/DMs are always open.