There are two types of abortion procedures: medical and surgical abortion. Medica abortion is when you take tablets to have an abortion. A surgical abortion is when you have a surgical procedure to remove the contents of your womb. For each person, the preferred or most effective method for abortion will be different, depending on a range of circumstances, including your stage of pregnancy.
In South Africa, medical abortion is generally available up until 10 weeks after your last period. In some settings, doctors provide medical abortions until 13 weeks, or even up until 18 weeks after your last period, depending on different provincial and hospital protocols.
Surgical abortion by vacuum aspiration or dilatation and curettage has been the method of choice for early pregnancy termination since the 1960s. Medical abortion became an alternative method of first trimester pregnancy termination with the availability of prostaglandins in the early 1970s and anti-progesterones in the 1980s.
Manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) is a safe and effective method of uterine evacuation that involves the use of a hand-held plastic aspirator. The aspirator provides a vacuum source attached to a cannula (thin tube), and is manually activated to suction the contents of the uterus.
Electric vacuum aspiration involves the use of an electric pump or suction machine connected via flexible tubing to a plastic or metal cannula. It typically is used in centralised settings with higher caseloads, and is less appropriate for settings with intermittent electrical supply.
Dilatation and evacuation or dilatation and curettage are methods used after 15 weeks. This method might be used if some products of conception have been retained following an earlier MVA, or if the procedure is done in a very late stage of pregnancy.
Read more about what to expect when having an abortion here!