Surgical abortions

All people having a surgical abortion have a pre-treatment with medication to soften the cervix to reduce the risk of bleeding and cervical damage. For early pregnancies one tablet will be required and for a later pregnancy sometimes a combination of medication and/or cervical dilators are used to ensure the procedure is safe.

What to expect

People having a surgical procedure can expect to be at a health facility on two separate days. On the first day you will have a consultation with a health worker and doctor to explain the procedure in detail and discuss any health or emotional concerns you may have. If needed counsellors are available on request. The doctor will perform an ultrasound scan, obtain your consent, explain any risks and give you an operation appointment, date and a time you will need to fast from.

A surgical abortion takes approximately 15 minutes with a light general anaesthetic.

It is really important that you are fasted from the time the doctor advises you. Fasting means nothing to eat, drink suck or chew so that a safe procedure can be completed. If adequate fasting has not occurred, this can delay or cancel your procedure.


All patients having a surgical procedure are given a pre-treatment directly to the cervix to reduce the risk of bleeding and cervical damage. Misoprostol is the medication prescribed for the pre–treatment. Depending on the stage of the pregnancy the dosage of medication to take will differ.

Misoprostol is also given at the end of the surgical procedure to reduce bleeding and cramping. It should only be taken if you are certain about your decision to have the procedure.

After the procedure

Cramping and pain may occur after the operation and can continue for a few days. The pain is similar to a normal period pain and can be relieved with your regular period pain medication, and/or a heat pack.

Bleeding can vary from little or no bleeding to moderate bleeding immediately after the procedure. Bleeding can continue for two to three weeks. Your first period can occur within four to six weeks and can be slightly heavier with more cramping than usual.

Avoid using tampons or having sexual intercourse for seven days after the procedure to minimise the risk of infection.

Follow up care and support

You can visit your general practitioner two weeks after the procedure to check that you have no concerns or complications following the surgical procedure.

24 hours telephone support is available for patients having a surgical abortion. For more information, see the unplanned pregnancy page.