Having an abortion: what you need to know



1 in 3 women in the UK choose to have an abortion. So why are they still so hard to talk about? An anonymous student discusses her own experience and what you may need to know.

Although abortion as a concept is becoming less and less of a taboo subject, I do not believe we have seen much change in conversation on a real level. Many of those around us will proudly say they are pro-choice, but would you have anyone to turn to if you wanted to terminate a pregnancy? Unfortunately, I did not. There is a lot of advice to be found online, but what we lack is honest, specific information. That is what I would like to provide. I want to offer my experience of having an abortion whilst studying at the University of Bristol. I want others to know exactly where they can go, what happens, and what support is offered. I want to save you the time and energy of figuring this all out.

Firstly, you are not alone! More than 1 in 4 women in the UK chooses to end a pregnancy in their lifetime. And that is fine.

First Steps

Please take a test as soon as possible. Getting the process started early will make your life a lot easier. How far along you are with your pregnancy will determine what kind of abortion you will be able to have.
Something that came as a surprise to me was the waiting time. I had to call a clinic and book a phone consultation. This phone consultation took place a few days later, and then I was booked in for the appointment at the clinic. This whole process took two weeks. For me, this was terrifying - two whole weeks of knowing I was pregnant. Try your best to stay calm for this time, it is physically and mentally draining but unfortunately once you are booked in you have done everything you can.

Something that came as a surprise to me was the waiting time. This whole process took two weeks. For me, this was terrifying - two whole weeks of knowing I was pregnant.

You should check all of your information before the phone consultation – try to work out when your last period was and know your weight. They will also ask you to make up a password so that you are able to call back if you have any questions. You are able to call them before or after the abortion, and no question is too silly or embarrassing. The clinic I chose was Marie Stopes. I absolutely recommend them, but of course do your own research and choose who you are comfortable with.

Preparing for the day

The clinic was not a convenient location. I had to be driven about 20 minutes away from central Bristol. I suggest getting a lift or taxi home, as bleeding could start if you have a long journey on public transport. They also advise that you do not come alone, but it is up to you.

Take painkillers before you go – they should advise how much to take. Bring a book or something to do. Bring heavy flow/night sanitary towels. Wear something comfortable. Choose somebody to list as an emergency contact.

What happens?

I can only provide my own personal experience, but hopefully it will still be of some help.

They did a finger prick blood test and I had an ultrasound scan. They asked me before if I would like to know if it was a multiple pregnancy, I said no. They did not show me the scan but I did not ask. They confirmed that I was about seven weeks along, so I was able to have a medical (pill) abortion. This is what I had asked for on the phone, but it cannot be confirmed until your scan. If I was further along, I believe I would have had a surgical abortion. Every option has pros and cons but fortunately I was able to have the one I wanted. I had to wait for about an hour after my scan before the procedure took place.

When I went back in, they checked to make sure I was definite about ending my pregnancy. I then swallowed one pill and inserted 4 pills into my vagina. They told me exactly how to do this. I was given the option of splitting the pills across two days or taking them all at once. I took them all at once, which reduced the chance of success by 1%, but meant only one visit to the clinic. After that I had to sit down for ten minutes, then I was free to go. I went away with a lot of leaflets, painkillers, and a free pen.

I was told to expect the pregnancy could start to pass any time between one to 24 hours and the bleeding could last up to four weeks. I was also told not to have sex for two weeks due to risk of infection, and if I were going back on the contraceptive pill, to start it the following day.


Look after yourself. A medical abortion is essentially a miscarriage - it is hard on your body. It took me a few weeks to fully recover, with a very hard first few days. The cramps had me in bed for most of it, so prepare to watch a lot of films.


It is messy. The blood is not like a normal period, there’s a lot more clots and a lot more of it. Be aware of this before it starts and maybe try not to look at it. And have many more sanitary pads than you think you will need, the last thing you want to be doing is running to the shop! The whole thing is longer than you might think. It felt incredibly long to me, but just remember that your body will be completely yours again at the end.


From the clinic

The clinic do not follow up with you after you leave, but they do have support available if you need it. They have a helpline that you can call at any point after your abortion – even years down the line! They also offer counselling. I did not use this service, but I did call them once after a few days just to ask a question and they were very helpful.

From the University

The University does not have any specific information or help to offer for those of us in this situation. I looked all over the website, and even at other Universities’ websites. I searched the different University of Bristol newspapers and magazines to see if any students had shared their stories but found nothing. I found some help for students keeping their pregnancies, but nothing from Bristol and nothing for me. This did not stop me from seeking help, so at least now I can give a bit of an insight, which is all I wanted!

Do not feel like you have to share any information with the University. You do not have to do anything! I chose to and it was the right decision for me. I confided in a senior tutor, who was able to sort out getting me an extension for my coursework very discreetly. The form just said that I had a medical procedure. She also checked in on me after but said there was no pressure to chat.

I didn’t know too much about abortion before I had one, so I’ve tried to answer the questions I had. Hopefully some of this information will become useful if anyone falls into a similar position, or even just allow people to read some details about a real experience!

Featured Image Unsplash / Beatriz Perez Moya

To find out more information about having an abortion, please visit the British Pregnancy Advisory Service - BPAS - by clicking here.

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