in the same way as all other
Abortion in Canada is generally
Canada, 50% of women faced with an unintended pregnancy choose to have an
abortion. These women include religious women, mothers, grandmothers, young
women, older women, single women, married women, unemployed women, employed
women and women who were against abortion before they knew that they were
pregnant. Choosing to terminate a pregnancy does not change the person that
Abortion is legal in Canada and is
for women who are up to twenty weeks pregnant. Provinces
have different gestational limits that have to be respected by hospitals and
clinics that offer abortion services. In Canada, there are a few select
hospitals and clinics that will perform abortions on women who are over
twenty weeks pregnant, depending on circumstances,
but the procedure is safer and simpler done early.
When performed in birth control clinics, hospitals or free standing abortion
clinics, abortion is a very safe procedure with an estimated complication
rate of less than 1%.
There are two types of abortions - medical abortions and surgical abortions.
Medical abortions use drugs to empty the uterus, surgical abortions use
instruments to remove the contents of the uterus.
type of procedure used to terminate a pregnancy may vary depending on the
city you live in, on the abortion provider and on how far along you are in
your pregnancy. You might also have personal preferences that can influence
your decision. For example:
Do you want to be awake or asleep for the procedure? Where are you most
comfortable having the procedure done (a clinic or hospital)? Do you want to
have surgery or would you prefer a medical (drug) option?
The most common abortion methods for early abortion are Manual vacuum
aspiration and Suction and Curettage.
In both cases, it is a simple procedure, taking no more than 10 minutes.
Manual vacuum aspiration is performed in the first 7 to 8 weeks after the
last menstrual period. It uses the gentle suction of a syringe to remove the
pregnancy tissue from the uterus.
The procedure can be performed under local or general anaesthetic, depending
on where you go for the procedure. For a local anaesthetic, the
cervix is numbed with an injection. In some clinics, local anaesthetics may
be combined with sedatives to make a person relax and sleepy but not
After washing the vagina with an antiseptic, the physician gradually widens
(dilates) the cervix by inserting and removing
a series of narrow, tapered rods, each slightly wider in diameter than the
a thin tube is guided through the cervical opening into
the uterus. A syringe is attached to the tube and used to gently remove the
contents of the uterus.
You should have a
follow-up exam two or three weeks later to make sure the procedure was a
Many women feel menstrual-like cramps both during and after the procedure.
Suction and curettage
is a surgical procedure
that uses a mechanical suction machine to gently empty the uterus. It
is performed between the 6th and 14th week after the
last menstrual period. It can be done with a general anaesthetic, where you
will be asleep, or with a local anaesthetic to freeze the cervix. In some
clinics, local anaesthetics may be combined with sedatives to make a person
relax and sleepy but not unconscious.
After washing the vagina with antiseptic, the physician gradually widens
(dilates) the cervix by inserting and removing a series of narrow, tapered
rods, each slightly wider in diameter than the last.
The doctor inserts a small, hollow tube, which is attached to an aspirator
machine (similar to the one dentists use to clear the mouth of saliva). The
suction is turned on and the doctor moves the tube back and forth for a
short time. When the uterus is empty, the suction is stopped.
The walls of the uterus are then gently felt with a loop-shaped instrument
to make sure no tissue remains.
A follow-up exam is done a week or two later to make sure the procedure is
Dilation is often uncomfortable. Many women feel menstrual-like cramps both
during and after the procedure.
Other methods that are used are Dilation and Evacuation and medical
Other techniques are sometimes employed in a small percentage of second
trimester abortions. The D&E (dilatation & evacuation) technique is similar
to the vacuum aspiration method described above, but with the physician also
using forceps to remove foetal matter.
It usually requires a visit to the clinic on the day prior to the surgery to
begin to dilate (widen) the cervical opening. The procedure takes between 10
and 20 minutes.
In Canada, a
medical abortion is done by combining the drugs of Methotrexate and
Misoprostol. Methotrexate is usually given by injection. Misoprostol tablets
are placed in the vagina five to seven days after the Methotrexate injection
is given. In most cases the uterus will be
emptied within 24 hours, but in about 35 percent of cases, it can take
several days or weeks. Pain medication is used to ease the pain of the
cramps, which occur when the pregnancy tissue comes out of the uterus.
Medical abortion is available from a few abortion clinics
and is usually done in the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. A medical abortion
requires at least three or four visits to the doctors’ office. A follow-up
exam is done one or two weeks after the methotrexate injection to make sure
that the abortion has happened. A woman who takes these drugs must be
prepared to have a surgical abortion if the medical abortion is unsuccessful
because the drugs that induce medical abortions cause birth defects.
While most women will experience a sense of relief after their abortion,
others may experience mixed emotions. Some women may have more difficulty
coping with their abortion than others. Difficulties in coping seem to be
triggered by a number of factors, including factors that are not directly
involved with having the abortion procedure. In other words, the experience
of abortion depends on more than just the woman's feelings, thoughts and
personality. Some things that may affect how a woman feels about her
- her ability to access resources when needed
- her life history and current life situation
- her relationship with the significant others of her life (partner, family,
- her treatment from doctors, teachers, colleagues, employers and health
- society's expectations and beliefs.
- laws, policies and practices
If you are unsure about your decision, you may want to call a counseling
center to talk to someone about your options. Or, if you have had an
abortion and are experiencing mixed emotions, talking to someone about your
feelings may help.
to see find a counseling centre near you.
If you have questions about the procedure, or if you want to talk with a compassionate and non-judgemental woman, please call Canadians for Choice toll-free at 1-888-642-2725. If you would like someone to accompany you to the hospital or the clinic, please call us at 1-888-642-2725 and we will arrange for someone to be there for you.
After an Abortion: physical
After an abortion, most women feel
ready to go home from the hospital or clinic within an hour and will
feel ready to go back to work or school the next day. Normal reactions
after an abortion include heavy cramping and bleeding, however, not all
women will experience after-effects. If you had general anaesthetic or
were sedated for your abortion, you may feel sleepy, relaxed or nauseous
as the drugs wear off. Your doctor will tell you specifically what to
expect before and after the procedure.
Although you may
experience heavy bleeding and cramping for the next few days, you should
not feel as though the cramps are unbearable, nor should you bleed
enough that you soak more than one pad an hour. If you develop a fever
if you are bleeding for longer than two weeks, have increased vaginal
discharge or discharge that smells bad or if you are feeling depressed
or suicidal; call your doctor or report to the nearest hospital. Also,
if you feel like you are going to pass out or if you are having trouble
breathing, please report to the nearest hospital. The medical staff at
the clinic or hospital where you have an abortion will inform you of
other symptoms that you may have to watch for and will tell you where
you should call if you experience any of the after-effects.
abortion, most doctors recommend that in order to reduce the risk of
use tampons until your next period (usually 4-8 weeks later).
have intercourse or put anything in your vagina for 1-2 weeks or as
specified by your doctor.
douche, have a bath or go swimming for 1-2 weeks or as specified by your
doctor. You may use a shower.
heavy lifting (over 15 lbs) and intense exercise (ex. running) for 1-2
weeks or as specified by your doctor.
These are just generalised recommendations. Your abortion provider will
tell you if there are any other activities that you ought to avoid.
After an Abortion: thoughts and emotions
abortion, different women experience different emotions, with most women
feeling like they have made the right decision. Some women experience
relief that the procedure is over and peace in knowing that they made
the right choice. Other women may feel sad as they think about “what
might have been”. Still other women will feel nothing at all, as if they
are in a dreamlike-state. The important thing to remember is:
Whatever you are feeling is normal and OK.
Just like in any situation, people
react differently to different things. How you feel depends on many
things such as the amount of support you have had both before and after
the procedure, your ability to cope with difficult situations and how
others around you feel about abortion.
abortion, researchers have found that how a woman reacts and feels
after an abortion, is very
related to how she was feeling before the abortion. For instance, if a woman is unsupported and
feeling depressed before she has an abortion, she may be more likely to
feel depressed after she has an abortion. Likewise, if a woman has a
good support system and has someone who she can talk to openly about her
feelings, she may feel more peaceful after an abortion. Some of the
things you may feel after an abortion are:
Remember, these are just some feelings
and you can bet that whatever your emotions are, another woman has felt the
same way. Since approximately 1 out of every 4 women will have an abortion
in their lifetime, you are not alone in your abortion experience. It is OK
to acknowledge that a decision can be both right, and difficult.
If you would like to talk about your
abortion experience with a compassionate and non-judgemental woman, please
call Canadians for Choice
toll-free at 1-888-642-2725.
also find some of these links useful to you in the days that follow your
(Note: some of the links
are to American websites that have information and toll-free numbers that
are not applicable to women in Canada. However, the content and support that
you will find is universal.
Pregnancy Options Workbook
website allows readers to work through their feelings about abortion using a
A resourceful site of rituals, books and support for
women who feel unresolved after abortion.
Inner Healing After Abortion
This website is for women and
their partners who recognise their abortion as a sad loss.
Healthy Coping After an Abortion
This website offers resources, links and information on how to cope after an abortion.
Men and Abortion
A website for men
who want to know how they can best support their partners through this
Peace After Abortion
Based on a book
by Ava Torre-Bueno, this website encourages women to find peace after making
a difficult decision about pregnancy.
The Choice Linkup
website is a pro-choice directory offering information on abortion and links
to other related websites. Most links are American.