Lifestyle and Daily Living

    I had an abortion.

    I had an abortion.

    I’ve been open to discuss my experience with hormonal contraceptives on my blog before, going into detail regarding how I felt during and after coming off the mini pill. And on this stead, I wanted to give you information and a real life case study as it were regarding my new experience… Finding out I was pregnant and having a termination, an abortion.

    In the same way I kept my post regarding Cerelle as informative as I could without giving professional advice as I am obviously not qualified to do so, I wish to point those carrying unwanted pregnancies in the right direction to find the advice and information they require. This is because there’s a lot of knowledge, advice and information out there but a lot of it can have a bias and an agenda – and it can be difficult often to find the right information for where you live.

    As a bit of background so you, the reader, can understand me a little more and know whether this advice is appropriate for you (regarding age, location, etc). I am Lucy, and as I write this I am 22 (nearly 23!) years of age. I am from Norfolk in the United Kingdom and I live close by the city centre of Norwich. I have access to the NHS (National Health Service) meaning I can get a variety of health care treatments completely free at the point of access.

    Personally, I have never seen myself as a parent and my partner has never seen himself become a father. It was a joint decision, and one that I had came to myself before we had even began our relationship back in 2015, that if I were to get accidentally pregnant – I would reach out and attempt to access abortion treatment.

    I’ve never been exceptionally maternal, and kids of all shapes and sizes aren’t who I want to socialise with in any shape or form. This has led to an almost lifelong decision (and continuing) to never, ever have my own children. I wouldn’t know what to do, I wouldn’t love the child unconditionally, and I wouldn’t be a good parent.

    If I don’t want a child – why should I bring one up and potentially ruin them mentally? As a child, and as you grow up, it is easy to tell when someone (and especially a parent) doesn’t want you, and that can ruin a person for their entire life.

    So, to spare myself and my potential offspring from any animosity and life-ruining relations, I have been firmly set on my choice of action, should any accidents occur. And unfortunately, an accident occurred.

    What is an abortion?

    An abortion is a medical procedure carried out in order to terminate a pregnancy, whether it is due to the pregnancy being unwanted by the pregnant person or it would cause physical harm (or even death) towards the pregnant person for the pregnancy to be carried to term.

    Abortions are also carried out due to medical complications for the baby itself – such as life threatening defects and disabilities.

    The different types of abortion

    There are multiple types of abortion, and the type used and which is most effective is considered based on how far along the pregnancy is. Typically, the younger the pregnancy, the more successful and ‘easier’ a termination is to carry out. But, your abortion healthcare provider, healthcare assistant or nurse will support you through and work with you to determine the best plan of action.

    • ‘Medical Abortion’ – Also known as the abortion pill. You are administered (or administer yourself) two types of medication (mifepristone in combination with misoprostol) typically 24-48 hours apart to induce an abortion/termination. You swallow the first medication, mifepristone, orally 24-48 hours before administering the second medication, misoprostol, in two parts.

      The misoprostol is administered either through letting the tablets melt under the tongue, between the gum and upper lip or initially as a vaginal pessary. You then administer a second, smaller dose of misoprostol – and this second time round it may be easier to let it melt in your mouth between the upper lip and gum due to vaginal bleeding. Usually chosen as the termination option if you are less than 10 weeks gestation.
    • ‘Surgical Abortion’ – A medical procedure is completed in order to terminate the pregnancy. This is usually completed if you are past the 10 weeks gestation period. There are two types of surgical abortion.
      • Vacuum Aspiration – This type of surgical abortion removes the pregnancy through gentle suction. This can be done with local or general anaesthetic, or sedation. The recovery time for this type of termination means you can leave the clinic sooner, and unattended. Usually for pregnancies before 14 weeks gestation.
      • Dilation and Evacuation – This is usually completed under general anaesthetic or conscious sedation. The pregnancy is removed using narrow forceps through the cervix. This is completed between 15 and 24 weeks gestation.

    All abortions are completed with initial cervical preparation at all gestations.

    Myself, I was only 6 weeks gestation so I was able to access the medical abortion and more specifically for my experience, I was provided my abortion as part of the Pills By Post service. This differentiation is important as you may be offered or choose a different option for your own pregnancy and I can only provide an account of the experience I had personally.

    How do I access an abortion?

    I would initially consider your GP as your first port of call here. They can provide you with one-to-one advice, and also point you in the right direction of the abortion care specialists closest to you if they are unable to prescribe an abortion themselves.

    However, I would also research into self-referral abortions – which is the route I took. As someone with access to free NHS treatment within England I was able to immediately self-refer and get into direct contact with my local abortion clinic, BPAS. BPAS are the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and can provide information, consultation and abortion services as well as a range of other pregnancy services such as miscarriage support, vasectomies, fetal anomaly care, and more.

    Other pregnancy and abortion advisory services include MSI Reproductive Choices UK, the National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service (NUPAS) or your local NHS sexual health website. I personally only contacted BPAS, so I cannot speak for what to expect when you contact your GP, MSI or NUPAS.

    Within your area, you may be able to also get in contact with sexual health clinics who will also be able to provide you with advice and the abortion procedure or at least point you in the right direction and answer any questions you may have.

    Abortions can only be carried out under the care of an NHS hospital or a licensed clinic, and are usually available free of charge on the NHS.

    You should not have to wait longer than two weeks between initial contact from your GP or clinic and having your abortion carried out. You may require an ultrasound scan to date the pregnancy, if you aren’t 100% sure of when your last period was or if your last period was different to your normal.

    What does the Pills By Post parcel look like & what does it contain?

    I had an abortion.

    The parcel itself is completely unmarked – which is helpful if you’re trying to disguise it from prying eyes. It’s a plain brown box with just your name and mailing address.

    Inside the box, you will see similar to the image above. There’s a big box for the initial ‘medabon’ medication stage (the mifepristone and misoprostol). There’s a booklet / leaflet with the third stage of medication, the final dosage of misoprostol. Another box contains your termination of pregnancy test, and it’s important you use this correctly when confirming your termination was successful as you only receive one. If you opted for it, you will also receive a box of codeine – which are the painkillers provided to help you get through the hardest parts.

    I really thought it would be important to share what the box looks like and what the contents looks like – as all information pages I could find only told you what you’d receive and not what it would look like. It can be overwhelming if you’re not sure what everything is.

    How will I know the abortion has been successful?

    You will be asked to take a clinic-provided abortion (end-of-pregnancy/termination) test stick for you to take, similar to the pregnancy test stick you would have used to find out you were pregnant. It is important you only use this, and you use it correctly, as store-bought pregnancy tests are usually a different sensitivity (either not sensitive enough, or too sensitive) and can provide you with an incorrect result.

    The abortion will be confirmed as successful upon completing this termination test using the first urination of the day, and receiving a negative result. A positive test result will mean there is still detectable amounts of HGC (the pregnancy hormone) within your output and therefore your termination is likely to have been unsuccessful.

    If you receive a positive result, or your test is inconclusive, you should refer back to your abortion provider for further information – and they will be able to help with either completing the termination through another means (likely surgical if your first attempt was medical) or providing an ultrasound to understand where the issue lies.

    My (short) pregnancy journey and abortion experience

    The date of my last period began on 28th April 2022, and I had expected to ‘come on’ (or begin my next period) around 31 days later – the length of my average menstrual cycle.

    I had quite the emotionally turbulent month in May, with my cat passing away suddenly and unexpectedly and catching COVID-19 a second time. I fully blame my hormones being affected by just how emotionally up-and-down this month was for me getting pregnant – as I have not had any other differences since coming off the pill two years ago.

    Myself and my partner are in a long-term relationship, we will have been together 7 years this year, and so we usually have unprotected sex – which is risky, in terms of potentially getting pregnant. But, we had (wrongly) assumed one of us or the both of us had fertility issues, due to myself not getting pregnant in the two years we had been having unprotected sex.

    It was my partner who noticed something might be up before I did – he really does know me better than I know myself. My moods were up and down, my appetite was off and my period was late. Because of him, I took a pregnancy test on Saturday 4th June 2022 after getting my hair cut at the hairdressers and visiting my family.

    I didn’t even have to wait the full five minutes for the thing to show a deep, dark positive. I immediately felt sick, and I had to tell someone – but I couldn’t tell my family.

    The thing is, I have had the ‘if I were to get pregnant, I would have an abortion’ conversation with my family, who were truly and utterly against the idea. They would prefer for me to carry the pregnancy, and I sort of understand why. It is a potential life after all and it would make my parents into grandparents.

    I also fully and totally understand that I have the ability to get pregnant, which is something my sister cannot do (and hasn’t really had a chance to settle and look into fertility treatments and options due to being unable to settle into a fully long-term committed relationship with a decent man) and this is taking away her opportunity to get the closest she can to motherhood, which is being an auntie.

    But, I cannot and will not carry a pregnancy to term for myself, and I know my family have joked about if I get pregnant I could hand it off and we could let my sister adopt it – but life isn’t Eastenders and that just isn’t a viable route. However, I would be more than happy to legally and officially surrogate using my sister’s fertilised eggs if it came to that being the route needed. I would be honoured to do that for my sister, but I won’t palm off a second-hand child to her.

    I had to tell my best friend, who pretty much immediately dropped everything and came round (along with their boyfriend, who I have grew to enjoy having around and trusted enough to be one of the only people to know – so please don’t screw things up!).

    They brought round a second pregnancy test to confirm the first, and also some alcohol – because if you’re not planning on keeping the pregnancy then it doesn’t hurt to calm your nerves with a bit of the tough stuff.

    I phoned my partner while he was at work to give him the news, I didn’t want to wait and I couldn’t really hold it in. He needed to know, and while him being at work having a secret phone call isn’t the best way to deliver some bad news, it just had to do.

    While my best friend and their boyfriend were round, I researched into the best next steps for myself. I briefly considered contacting my GP but with the state of my doctors surgery at the moment and the faff trying to get appointments, and with an upcoming holiday just round the corner, this wasn’t the best option for me.

    So, I looked into self referral, and my most local and best option was BPAS. Their telephone consultation opening hours, luckily, said they would be open the following Sunday morning. So, on Sunday morning I waited until they were open and rang in straight away. They offered me an appointment for the very next day, for a telephone consultation with the practice nurse to run through my options and a full medical questionnaire.

    The Monday, I had my telephone consultation. BPAS called up within the 90 minute window around my booked appointment, and while I was told to expect the call to last about an hour it really only took 30 minutes. I had my partner next to me, and I was (unfortunately) sitting in some grotty park as I really didn’t want to take this call at work.

    But, I was prescribed the abortion pills via the Pills By Post service they offer, which was a relief to us both. They mentioned that it could take until Thursday for the unmarked package to arrive, which would’ve been while I was on holiday, but it actually arrived the very next day.

    So, within three days, I had received and could have (in better circumstances) began the abortion process. But, I had to leave the package pretty much untouched until I returned. So, for a week, I had to pretend not to be pregnant in front of my family.

    My pregnancy symptoms were fairly typical. I had the general morning (or full day, in my case) sickness which is to be expected. My food aversions came on quite quick and strong – unfortunately in my case, I felt absolutely nauseous at the smell and thought of fish and garlic. And, on holiday, the hotel buffet had a lot of fish and garlic. A lot of it. And my dad especially insisted on eating a lot, and I couldn’t tell him not to, because that would give the game away. So I suffered.

    I also experienced a lot of exhaustion, and also constipation, which are apparently typical symptoms for pregnancy, so that was fun. But I coped.

    As soon as I came home from holiday on the Wednesday (week after receiving my Pills by Post package) I immediately opened the first pill and took it. Luckily, I had booked off the Friday from work so the main part of the abortion wouldn’t have me suffering at work, and I only had to work through the initial mild cramps of my cervical preparation.

    The Thursday evening after work was when the show really began. I administered the first step of the second medication vaginally, to give it the best shot of working. Oh boy, when they say to expect clots the size of lemons they really mean it.

    I was in a lot of pain, and it was god awful. It was traumatic for my body, I knew mentally it was something I had accepted, but it was so hard for me physically. I don’t think I got off the loo for a good five hours total, I just let myself free bleed over the toilet for as long as I needed.

    I wrote the following passage in my iPhone notes over the course of the worst of it while going through with the abortion, which I feel is important to share:

    The physical process of having an abortion is not easy on the human body. from the moment you administer the first dose, your body starts to cramp and get ready to expel your pregnancy.

    There’s a lot of pain – I can’t oversell how much pain there is. It’s uncomfortable and bloaty and crampy and you can feel each contraction of your uterus.

    The medication, the painkillers, the pain itself can cause nausea and vomiting. This can come quick and fast and you need to be ready. I can’t yawn (despite tiredness kicking in hours ago) without gagging and almost vomiting.

    The blood loss is heavy and gloopy and chunky and unbearable at times. I think I had a touch of excessive blood loss – and should probably have called a doctor, but I managed and survived by going through almost a packet of Always Ultra Night in their highest absorbency and an adult diaper to catch any leaks.

    I never want to go through this again but I will if I have to – but this is too much. I’m all for accessing abortions and easy access to uterine healthcare but it must not be sold as something easy. You don’t just pop two pills on consecutive days and away you go.

    It’s hours of sitting on the toilet free bleeding and alternating with sitting on the floor praying for it to be over soon. It’s laying in bed with a hot water bottle writhing in pain despite being dosed up on codeine. It’s humiliating, it’s exhausting, it’s painful.

    This isn’t to try and turn people away from abortions should they wish to access them – this is just to let them know what to truly expect as the medical pages do not go into a first hand account and true detail.

    Those who wish to terminate their pregnancy should expect to pass large, lemon sized clots and bright red blood. This bit they do try and warn you about, but I truly don’t believe enough emphasis is placed on this part at all.

    I try to distract myself by scrolling through social media but the nausea makes it difficult to suffer through the endless Instagram posts of peoples meals despite them looking so appetising and my being so hungry.

    Waking up the next day, I can truly understand why there’s such an offer of therapy and support for this. It’s a truly traumatising event to go through. It really felt like my entire insides were falling out of my body in one fell swoop last night and I’m glad it’s over.

    Today is easier and feels on par to period cramps. I can deal with this better and shouldn’t need any more codeine. Not that it made a difference.

    And now that I’m over the worst of it, I can tell you that the uterine cramps do last after the abortion has been ‘completed’. The actual termination itself and shedding of your insides lasts about 4-6 hours, but as I was told to expect, I am continuing to bleed and experience cramps daily. This could last until my next period, which… Great. But, in the long term, I’m glad that it’s done.

    My pregnancy symptoms pretty much all went away the next day. I’m no longer gagging when I smell food, and I have more energy.

    Advice I’d give to someone looking

    Overall, the biggest piece of advice I’d give to someone is to think it through. Even for me, someone quite headstrong and emotionally stable with a great support network around me – it’s a difficult thing to go through and is a scary, and emotionally vulnerable journey.

    Pregnancies and abortions play with your hormones, your emotions and the way you feel day-to-day and that can affect you physically and mentally. It’s important to ensure that if and when you do complete your abortion (whether you are supported by the clinic, or taking the medication at home), you are completely safe and comfortable.

    I’m aware that not everyone is fortunate enough or in the right situation when it comes to reaching out for an abortion, but a support network is invaluable during the treatment. When it comes to the moment you find out you’re pregnant through to confirming your termination was successful through the post-treatment test, having even one person to confide in will help alleviate some of the anxieties.

    I really do appreciate my partner and my best friend (and their partner) for being there for me throughout the entire process and for being so understanding and adapting to my fluctuating moods and hormones from before I found out I was pregnant, through to the consultations and until after it was over. If it wasn’t for this group of people, I’d have struggled with the anxiety that comes alongside this entire process – despite being as certain this was what I wanted as I was.

    Another piece of advice I’d give is don’t give up – you may not have access to a GP or find that it is impossible to get an appointment that suits you. There’s plenty of resources and accessibility options out there to suit everyone. The Pills By Post service alongside the accompanying telephone consultations and quick access was exceptional – I had my package within three days of getting in contact with BPAS.

    I’d prepare a two-three day period of time away from work, and at home or somewhere you won’t be expected to do much and definitely completely step away from life for a whole 24 hour period starting from the moment you administer the second and third steps and medications.

    Similarly, I’d make sure you have all your comfort items to hand. Get yourself a hot water bottle, make your bed, tidy your space and make everything as comfortable and easy to manage as possible. Your shopping list should definitely include super-absorbent, large (think night-time) maxi pads. I also purchased some disposable ‘adult diapers’ to wear over my underwear as additional protection when I did have to get up and step away from the toilet, and especially for that extra peace of mind when I eventually was able to lay down and go to sleep. I didn’t end up leaking through my maxi pad into the diaper, but I also found it helped me feel more comfortable to cover my bedsheets with a towel I didn’t mind potentially getting dirty through the night – as I said, I didn’t end up needing it but it helped me feel more comfortable.

    Final Thoughts

    An abortion is definitely something you shouldn’t go into blind – you should have all the information to hand that you can get. Whether it’s watching YouTube videos, asking questions or detailed online resources, gathering the information and knowing what you’re getting into is important.

    I’m forever and always pro choice, I always have been. And having this experience under my belt only cements that for me more.

    I thank BPAS for being so incredibly accessible, and supportive. I thank my partner for being a rock, and for handling me and this so well. I thank my best friend and their partner, for accepting this and for being there for me and for everything you both have done.

    Also… Sorry mum, and Rosie, for this.