My medical abortion at 8 weeks compared to my surgical abortion at 6 weeks
I wanted to share my recent experience of having a medical abortion at 8 weeks pregnant, compared to a surgical abortion I had 5 years ago at approximately six weeks pregnant. I'd also like to say that my second pregnancy was due to failed contraception - I had the Mirena coil fitted, which was still in place at the time I found out I was pregnant, so even when you're being as responsible as possible, pregnancy can still happen and you can't beat yourself up about it.
A surgical abortion at 6 weeks
After having a surgical abortion I felt like I couldn't go through with that again. Contrary to a lot of the experiences I have read, I found this more emotionally difficult - but it may have been because of my mental state at the time.
I felt guiltier and more unsure about my decision and was generally not in a good head space with my relationship and personal life.
As I was already more emotional, having to lay there with your legs spread while they suck and scrape out your pregnancy was extremely upsetting.
I had the procedure done in an NHS sexual clinic - the staff are absolutely fantastic and do not judge your decisions. They've seen it all before and just want to support you in making the right decision for you.
As I was having to travel the next day the staff strongly advised I have a surgical abortion, as they couldn't let me endure 5 hours on a train bleeding. I was hesitant, as I knew there is a slight risk of perforating the uterus, but it was really my only option if I didn't want to wait a few weeks to have a medical abortion.
After taking a tablet in the morning (or the day before - I can't fully remember) I was ready for the procedure.
I had to have a speculum inserted (if you've ever had a smear or coil fitted you'll know what this is like), but as they need to open up your cervix I found it extremely uncomfortable. They then applied a numbing gel and injected a localised anesthetic - this was less painful than I was anticipating, only a sharp jab.
Pregnancy removal by vacuum
The worse bit was removing the pregnancy - they use a vacuum device which is quite noisy. It wasn't painful, but I could feel what was going on.
They then use a metal tool to scrape any remaining tissue from your uterus/womb - this felt horrendous and will always live with me.
To feel someone manually taking out your pregnancy was extremely upsetting and it really hit home what I was doing - I was trying to hold back the tears while the procedure was completed. It was over very quickly though - from what I remember from start to finish it probably took 15 minutes to complete.
I then had to stay in the hospital for one hour before my boyfriend was allowed to take me home.
I don't really remember any side effects afterwards, as it was 5 years ago. I think I had light spotting afterwards, but that was it - it was more the emotional toll that stayed with me.
The memories of this procedure have lived with me for years and that's why I was adamant on a medical abortion this time.
A medical abortion at 8 weeks
As I had a Mirena coil fitted, it took me a little longer to realise I was pregnant. But with a missed period, headaches and nausea, I couldn't deny the symptoms any longer and took a pregnancy test - which was obviously positive.
I called the same NHS sexual health clinic right away and explained my situation and that I was considering termination.
As they were understaffed it took almost a week for them to get back to me with an appointment. I then had a half hour phone consultation with a really lovely nurse, who was extremely caring and understanding, and she booked me in for an appointment the very next day.
The scan showed 7 weeks 5 days
I had a scan which showed I was about 7 weeks and 5 days, so I was able to have a medical abortion (this clinic only allowed medical abortions up until 9 weeks and 2 days).
They did also offer me a surgical abortion under general anaesthetic, but I wouldn't be able to have it for another week, whereas the medical termination I could start the same day (Friday) and complete the second half on Monday. I opted for this.
They removed the Mirena coil I had fitted, took my bloods, weight and height and then gave me the first pill.
The first pill
I had very, very light cramping on Friday night and Saturday, but no bleeding.
Sunday evening I started to spot and also passed a bit of a brown slimy substance when I went to the toilet.
Monday morning came and I went back to the clinic where I was given antibiotics to take orally, as well as a really strong ibuprofen to place up my bottom, as well as four tablets to use vaginally. They allow you to do this yourself.
They also gave me co-codamol pain relief tablets and told me to take them as soon as I got home.
Everyone's abortion pain is different
The nurse explained that everyone was different in terms of pain, but that the pain relief should do the trick. With this, I was expecting something a bit stronger than period pain at the worse. I also had to have someone with me at home for 24 hours just in case I had any severe side effects, like haemorrhaging.
I got home 30 mins later and took two co-codamol tablets and laid in bed.
For the first two hours, I felt nothing and then light cramping started to step in.
About an hour later this light cramping turned into heavy period pain cramping, but this started to get worse and worse...
I went to the toilet where I had light diarrhoea, but not a lot of bleeding. I sat here for a while as it felt more comfortable.
I kept having hot and cold flushes as the pain intensified - but it hadn't been long enough to take more pain relief.
The pain was excruciating with no respite
The pain then got so bad that I could only scream in agony. There was no position that I could get in to give me any relief.
The pain was like nothing I've ever felt before. It was excruciating and with no respite - like severe period pains, but 100,000 x worse and sharper, and also a lot lower down.
I couldn't bear it anymore and took two more co-codamol tablets, even though four hours hadn't yet elapsed, but yet I was still in excruciating agony.
As I wasn't bleeding that much (like a light to normal period) I was getting worried that I would have to endure this for many more hours - and I just couldn't. When I stood up I almost passed out with the pain.
The clinic said to call an ambulance
My partner started to get worried as I writhed around screaming and called the clinic who told him to call an ambulance.
As it was a low priority, a paramedic in a car attended. He took my blood pressure and then gave me a shot of morphine - in about five minutes the pain began to subside. He gave me another two small shots, checking my blood pressure in between each until the pain was like cramping. I was so relieved and so thankful for it.
I went to the hospital because of the morphine
Honestly, for me, the pain felt like I was being tortured. As he had given me morphine, he said he had to take me to hospital as it can have side effects (although I didn't experience any) and also to have a gynaecologist check me over.
The pregnancy was the size of a small orange
Before we left I went to the toilet and passed a very big piece of tissue - probably the size of a small orange. I had a quick peek in the toilet, but couldn't see anything as there was so much blood, but I knew that was the pregnancy.
After going to the hospital my bleeding was like that of a medium period with no more clots.
I passed the pregnancy in one go
The gynaecologist said it sounded like I had passed the pregnancy in one go and the pain was because my uterus was pushing it out and it was resting against my cervix which is extremely sensitive.
She did a quick examination of my nether regions using a speculum and said the opening to my womb was closed and it didn't look like there was any remaining tissue, so I could go home.
The day after the abortion
I haven't had to take any more pain relief since (it's now the day after). I get a bit of cramping now and then, but not enough to warrant even ibuprofen. Bleeding is also getting a bit lighter.
I feel so much better in myself already though - pregnancy symptoms have almost all gone. I have a lot more energy, no headaches and don't feel nauseous anymore.
To minimise the risk of infection
I have to take a pregnancy test in two weeks to make sure all the tissue has gone, and I have been advised not to use tampons, have a bath, go swimming or to have sex for two weeks to minimise the risk of infection.
None of the options is 100% easy
I hope my experience will help others. Whatever option you go for it will never be 100% easy, but everyone is different and some things will suit others more.
I don't know if I have a very low pain threshold, but the medical abortion was excruciatingly painful. In saying that, the memory of the pain isn't as bad as the memory of the 'scraping' in surgical abortion, which will live with me forever.