A surgical abortion performed in an NHS hospital

By anonymous on 21/11/2012
I’ve decided to write about my experience after reading a lot online which helped me to make my decision about what type of termination to have. I was 6 weeks pregnant when I found out and after discussing the fact I did not want to have a baby at this point in my life, my doctor referred me to have an abortion on the NHS.

The first appointment was at the NHS hospital in the gynaecology clinic in the outpatients building. I had this appointment 4 days after my GP referred me (saw GP on the Monday and had the first NHS appointment on the Friday the same week). The first appointment is a consultation which took approximately 3 hours. I had to see the following people during this visit:
1. The family planning nurse - to discuss contraception options for after the abortion
2. The sonographer – to do a scan vaginally to see exactly how far along the pregnancy was (I was 7 weeks and 2 days at this point).
3. A nurse to have my blood taken – so they can check what blood type you are
4. A nurse to have my blood pressure taken
5. A counsellor – to who I explained how I accidently got pregnant and that it was my decision (no one pressuring me etc) to have the termination.
6. A doctor – to discuss and agree what type of procedure I wanted.

At 7 weeks I could have either a medical or early surgical termination. Originally I had thought I would want a medical as this seemed more ‘natural’ and almost like a miscarriage, but after reading a lot online about both options I realised that a medical could be quite painful and possibly drag on for quite a while. I wanted whatever procedure would be over with quickest (as I was also getting very bad morning sickness) and the least painful. So in the end I decided to have the surgical. I had also read a lot of varying stories about surgical procedures with some people having just a local anaesthetic, some having a conscious sedation and others having a general anaesthetic. The NHS hospital I went to performed the surgical terminations all under general so I didn’t really have to make a decision about being awake or not. And I am glad I was asleep during it all to be honest.

My second appointment was for the actual procedure and was carried out 3 days later (on the Tuesday) in the NHS Day Surgery. When I arrived there was a variety of people there, men and women who were obviously coming for different operations, however I also recognised a few girls who I’d seen when I’d been for the consultation and was pretty sure they must be there for the same reason as me. They began by calling 5 of us (all 5 women who were there for the same procedure) though to a changing room, where we had to put on the surgical gown, some disposable nickers and socks to stop DVT. After this another 5 women came through who were there for other procedures and we all waited in the same changing area together. During the time waiting in the changing area, each lady was taken into consultation rooms and seen by the anaesthetist, a nurse who took your blood pressure and the actual consultant who would be performing the procedure. The women having the surgical termination were also seen privately by a nurse who gave us 2 tablets and we were instructed to go to the toilet and insert them into our vaginas which would soften/open the cervix to make the procedure easier to perform.

After all this, everyone just sat in the changing room just waiting to be called through for their procedure. The waiting was the worst part for me as I was the 2nd to last person to be called through from the 10 women waiting.

When it was finally my turn, a really nice nurse came through and took me into the anaesthetic room which was joined on to the actual surgery but closed off by doors so you don’t actually see the surgery room. I lay on the bed and they put some heart monitors on my chest, an oxygen mask on my face and a drip in my hand. They also explained that once I was in theatre they would give me a painkiller which would be inserted in my bottom as this is the easiest way to get the painkiller into the bloodstream prior to the procedure as I was not allowed to eat or drink beforehand because I was having a general anaesthetic. The nurse and the anaesthetists were all really nice, chatting away and putting me at ease. They administered the anaesthetic by first giving me something which caused my body to tingle all over (the nurse said it feels like drinking 4 G&Ts) and then the actual anaesthetic where they asked me to count down from 10 to 1 and I think I reached about 6.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery unit (about 15 minutes later) in my bed and with a nurse by my side asking if I’d like some water. As I woke up I felt a bit emotional but this was mainly at the relief of having everything over and done with. I lay in bed slowly coming back to reality. The nurse checked whether I was in any pain and I said I felt fine, which was the truth as I didn’t have any pains at all. Once I was fully awake, I was walked into a different room and sat in a chair (with a few other women who’d also just come out) where I ate a biscuit and drank some more water. The nurse explained that once I’d been to the toilet and passed water they would let me get changed and discharge me.

My boyfriend picked me up and we went home and took it easy for the rest of the day. I actually felt a lot better than I had for the prior 2 weeks as the morning sickness seemed to have disappeared straight away and that had been making me really ill before. I had some light bleeding (less than I get with a normal period) and some minor cramps the afternoon after the procedure but didn’t need more than a couple of paracetamol to fix it.

Overall, my experience was a positive one. There was no pain, the procedure seemed to go well and with no complications and the doctors and nurses were all very lovely. I feel lucky to live in a country where it is the woman’s choice whether she keeps the baby or not and lucky to have a health system that supports this. I could have easily afforded to go privately if needed but it was nice being in the comfort of a hospital where you have everyone you need on hand in case anything goes wrong and also means you avoid the possibility of the horrible Pro-Life campaigners shouting at you which I hear is becoming more common outside abortion clinics in the UK.

Editor's Comment

Thank you for describing your experience which I am sure will help some readers as they think through their decision. It does vary from area to area what procedure you are offered and where. For example some areas use abortion clinics to outsource abortion services, so it is an NHS service but performed in a private clinic.

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