What to expect
We've put together information that will help you understand what to expect when you have an abortion. On this page, you'll find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Is it safe?
Abortion is a very safe procedure with fewer risks than pregnancy or childbirth and serious complications are very rare. It is more ideal to have an abortion before you are 12 weeks pregnant.
- Most people have no complications during or after their abortion. However, as with any medical or surgical procedure, there are some risks.
- Rare problems can include bleeding too much (haemorrhaging), getting an infection or damage to the cervix and uterus. Your abortion provider will explain this to you and how to follow up. It's unlikely these will ever cause ongoing problems.
- The most likely risk is an infection in the two weeks after your abortion. You can lower the risk by following the instructions given to you by your abortion provider at the time of your abortion.
- There is no evidence that your fertility (ability to get pregnant) or future pregnancies will be affected by having an abortion.
Does it hurt?
For most people, abortion procedures have at least some discomfort, usually similar to strong period pain. You will get more information about how to manage any discomfort or pain from your abortion provider.
- More information about what discomfort or pain to expect can be found under each abortion type.
- For early medical abortion, people can experience mild to strong cramping off and on throughout the abortion (commonly 1-4 hours but may be longer).
- For early surgical abortion, people can experience mild to strong cramping during the abortion (commonly a 5 to 10-minute period).
Can abortion fail?
In most cases, abortion works and the pregnancy is ended.
- Very rarely the abortion may not end the pregnancy. This is more common with medical abortion. If this happens, your abortion provider will let you know what to do next.
- Usually between 90 to 99% of early medical abortions are successful. If it fails, a surgical abortion or further abortion medication will be necessary.
- Usually 99% of early surgical abortions are successful. If it fails it will need to be repeated.
What about tikanga Māori?
If you decide to have an abortion, quality abortion providers allow you to uphold or apply your tikanga Māori or cultural practice.
How will I feel after an abortion?
Everyone has different feelings after an abortion.
Often people feel relief. Even if you are relieved, you could experience strong emotions afterwards. You might feel anger, freedom, regret, guilt, or sadness. These feelings may come and go. Or, you may hardly think about it again.
For some people, talking to a professional counsellor before or after an abortion can be helpful. You can ask your abortion provider about their counselling before and after an abortion.
If you choose to have counselling this will be free for most New Zealand citizens and residents. If you are not a New Zealand resident (non-resident), you will have to pay for abortion services, including abortion counselling.
What about contraception?
You can get pregnant two weeks after an abortion. If you don't want to get pregnant again after your abortion, start contraception straight away or as recommended by the nurse, doctor or midwife.