Terminating a pregnancy


Pregnancies can be terminated within the first 24 weeks of the pregnancy, though in practice terminations are rarely performed after 20 weeks.

If you decide that you want an abortion, you need the permission of two doctors. The first will usually be your GP or Family Planning doctor who will refer you on, and the second a doctor who you see at the clinic. If your GP has a conscientious objection you can contact the Family Planning Clinic, where all the staff are willing to refer you. Once you have been referred you will need to make an appointment at the Termination Referral (TR) clinic at the Rosie Maternity wing of Addenbrooke’s Hospital. The clinic aims to see women within a week of referral, but at busy times this can be two weeks. After twelve weeks of pregnancy, termination becomes more complex. It is therefore helpful to make decisions about whether or not to continue the pregnancy as soon as you feel ready, so that an abortion will be an easier and safer process.

The process

At your first visit to the hospital the doctor will take a medical history and perform brief physical and internal examinations. You can then ask to see a social worker or counsellor who will talk over your options and how you are feeling. They will also give you information about the termination and any side effects.

For terminations at less than twelve weeks, only a few hours’ stay at the Day Surgery Unit is required. However, because general anaesthetic is used, you must have someone to take you home and look after you for the next 24 hours.

Between 12 and 14 weeks a similar operation is carried out but, because at this stage there are greater risks, women stay overnight in hospital.

After 14 weeks it is necessary to use drugs to trigger a miscarriage. Although considerate nursing and pain relief is provided, this can be a very distressing process. In this situation women are encouraged to have a companion with them throughout the procedure.


There is often a complicated mixture of relief, guilt, anger and isolation to be sorted through after an abortion. You are advised to speak to the JCR Welfare Officers and tell your Tutor, Director of Studies or CUSU Women’s Officer or Welfare and Graduates Officer. The Family Planning service will continue to give support after an abortion for as long as necessary, as will the University Counselling Service.


As with any medical procedure, abortion carries a risk of complications. An abortion performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is a very safe operation, with a morbidity rate of just 1.3 per 100,000. Still it is essential, however well you feel, that you attend the post abortion check–up arranged for you. If you are worried about anything, do not hesitate to go back to your own GP or to hospital. It should be pointed out that an abortion, especially an early abortion, actually poses much less risk to your health than having a baby.