Termination of pregnancy: What does an abortion actually mean?
Abortions are a common experience, yet they still remain a taboo. As a result, there’s a lot of misunderstanding surrounding abortions; what they are, how they feel and the process itself. We’re here to change that.
An abortion is a procedure that is carried out to end a pregnancy.  Given the differing political stances on it, it’s not a topic that’s usually brought up casually or even very often. But why should that be the case? It’s estimated that 1 in every 4 pregnancies worldwide ends in abortion. 
Having an abortion can be an extremely challenging decision to make – there are lots of reasons as to why someone may want to end a pregnancy; from not being ready to have a child to financial instability to medical complications, the list is endless. However, being compassionate and understanding someone else’s choice to have (or not have) an abortion is essential in allowing people to decide what is right for them.
If you do decide that an abortion is the right path for you or if you are considering it, then keep reading to find out what the actual process involves as well as what happens after you have an abortion.
What are the different types of abortion?
Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, there can be two different ways that an abortion can be carried out; it will usually depend on your personal preferences combined with advice from a medical professional.
Surgical abortions involve a small operation that removes the pregnancy from your womb. This type of abortion can be carried out if you are up to 24 weeks pregnant (though this number may vary between countries or clinics and hospitals).
Surgical abortions can be performed using one of two methods. The first one is called vacuum aspiration. This type of surgical abortion can be carried out if you are up to 14 weeks pregnant and will involve you being under local or general anaesthetic. During a vacuum aspiration, the pregnancy is removed with the gentle suction of a tube.
The second method is called dilation and evacuation, which can be performed if you are up to 24 weeks pregnant. During this method, tools called forceps are inserted through the cervix and into the womb to remove the pregnancy. For dilation and evacuation, you will need to be asleep under sedation or general anaesthetic. 
Medical abortion (abortion tablets)
A medical abortion, also known as the “abortion pill”, is usually carried out if you are less than 10 weeks pregnant.
A medical abortion involves taking 2 different medicines in the form of pills. The first medication is called Mifepristone. Mifepristone blocks progesterone which causes the uterus lining to break down. This prevents the embryo from staying implanted and growing. The second medication is called Misoprostol and is usually taken 24-48 hours after Misoprostol. It can either be inserted orally or directly into the vagina. Misoprostol causes the womb to contract, pushing the embryo out through the vagina as blood and tissue. 
After abortion adjustment and care
After having any type of abortion, you may want to take a couple of days off to digest what has happened as well as to rest your body before you return back to everyday life. It’s normal for you to be feeling a little tired both emotionally and physically. Taking some extra time to stay in bed or lying in a nice bath should help to ease some of the tension. And if you are finding it hard to process the whole experience, it’s worth trying to talk to someone – whether that be a friend, therapist or even by sharing your feelings in a support group. Abortions can be a challenging procedure for many people, so it’s important to be kind to yourself and find helpful ways to cope with your emotions.
On the other hand, you may experience bleeding or cramps for up to 3 weeks after, though the heaviness of this bleeding and any pain should begin to ease off as time passes. It’s also recommended that you don’t insert anything into your vagina for 3 weeks after you have an abortion to prevent any infections, so you may want to keep towels and liners at hand as opposed to tampons.
If you continue to experience heavy bleeding or severe pain for a prolonged period after an abortion, then you should contact a medical professional so that they can best advise you with your individual situation.
Getting pregnant after having an abortion
Having an abortion doesn't necessarily mean never having children altogether. Circumstances may change, opening a new door to parenthood. Additionally, having an abortion does not affect your chances of getting pregnant in the future.
When abortions are carried out safely and with the right medical supervision, then they don’t affect your fertility. In some rare cases, there may be cause for concern in the event of complications that led to an untreated womb infection. However, this is extremely unlikely to happen if you go to a safe, authorised clinic or hospital. Contacting a medical professional if you ever feel like something may be wrong after the abortion will also help ensure that any complications are promptly dealt with.
Even though abortions may be a sensitive and controversial topic, not talking about them will only perpetuate the taboo and keep people from seeking the help they need. And while there’s no right or wrong when it comes to getting or not getting an abortion, it’s important to open up the conversation about them; so that everybody can make informed decisions that best suit them.
To continue the conversation on V-Zone experiences, take a look at some of our taboo breaking stories.
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.
 Sedgh G, Bearak J, Singh S, Bankole A, Popinchalk A, Ganatra B, Rossier C, Gerdts C, Tunçalp Ö, Johnson Jr BR, Johnston HB. Abortion incidence between 1990 and 2014: global, regional, and subregional levels and trends. The Lancet. 2016 Jul 16;388(10041):258-67.