Medical Termination

Medication to terminate a pregnancy has been in common use around the world for many years and it is being used increasingly rather than surgical abortion for early pregnancies. In Medical abortion a combination of two medications to taken to induce a bleed similar to a miscarriage. The earlier the medication is taken the better but this is licenced up to 63 days or less than 9 weeks pregnant. It is important that we are able to confirm the pregnancy on ultrasound prior to proceeding with the abortion to confirm how far along the pregnancy has progressed and that the pregnancy is in the womb (excluding a possible ectopic pregnancy).

What to expect

Once you have taken the second medication the onset of bleeding will usually be within 4 hours and almost always within 24 hours. This bleeding may initially be very heavy but can vary, it is usually heavier than a typical period. Cramping will accompany the bleeding and again can vary from light to severe. You have been provided with pain relief and we encourage you to take this as directed by your Doctor. Due to the risk of heavy bleeding you should remain within 1 hour’s drive distance from Emergency medical support (typically the Royal Hobart Hospital or Hobart Private Hospital) for at least 24 hours following the second medication.

If you saturate two (or more) sanitary pads per hour for two consecutive hours this could be “problem bleeding” requiring additional medical treatment. If you are worried about your bleeding please contact the MS Health After-care telephone service on 1300 515 883 or your treating doctor.

Bleeding should start to lighten and cramps become less severe once the pregnancy has been expelled and bleeding lasts on average 10 to 16 days. Light bleeding may continue up to 30 days but doesn’t usually extend beyond your first period. In exceptional cases when you have not had any bleeding within 24 hours, further medication may be required. Please contact your treating Doctor urgently.

Whilst you have had vaginal bleeding there is a small chance the pregnancy hasn’t been expelled and it is very important that you attend your follow-up assessment to confirm the pregnancy has been terminated.


Complications

Medical termination of pregnancy is a relatively low risk procedure.

  • There is a 2-7% chance the treatment may not be fully effective.
  • There is a 1-3% chance that surgery is required to manage ongoing or heavy bleeding.
  • There is a 0.1-0.2% chance of requiring blood transfusion due to haemorrhage (heavy bleeding).
  • Serious infections are very rare but can be life threatening.
  • There is a 0.2-1% chance of an ongoing pregnancy. If the pregnancy continues and the woman decides to keep the pregnancy it is known that these medications may cause fetal malformations (problems with the development of the pregnancy).

Compared to a surgical abortion you will not have to undergo an anaesthetic and the risks of infection or damage to the uterus and cervix is lower. There is however, a slightly increased chance of medical abortion not being fully effective (about 97% compared to close to 100%) where you may still require a surgical procedure.