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Gianna Care is a non profit organisation that is committed to providing compassion, accurate information and support to anyone facing a pregnancy or in need after an abortion. We believe there is a great need in Ireland for women and their families to be given every support necessary when faced with an unexpected pregnancy. We believe every client should be treated with the utmost respect and dignity and all of the information we receive is held in strict confidence.

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Abortion – What do you need to know?

Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions that we receive from our clients about abortion and abortion methods. We hope this guide will inform you and assist you in your decision making process.

At Gianna Care, we are committed to ensuring that you receive factual and evidence based information to help you make an informed choice. It is extremely important to take your time and think about your decision.

Gianna Care does not provide or refer for abortions. We offer a wide range of other services that you can avail of free of charge. You can read more about our services here.

If you have any other questions or would like to talk to someone we’re here to listen and support you. Please contact us here, ring our 24/7 helpline or ask us via live chat.

What abortion methods are there?

Abortion Methods

  • Medical abortion – (also known as ‘the abortion pill’) involves taking medication to end a pregnancy.
  • Surgical abortion – a surgical procedure to end a pregnancy.
When is abortion legal in Ireland?

In Ireland, abortion is legal up to 12 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.

When is abortion illegal in Ireland?

In Ireland, abortion after 12 weeks is not legal except in very exceptional circumstances.

I don't know what to do, who can I talk to?

Discovering you are pregnant can leave you feeling a mixture of emotions. Often this makes it difficult to know what to do next. Many women find it helpful to talk to somebody at this time.

At Gianna Care, we provide non directive counselling with a qualified counselling psychotherapist. If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and wish to discuss your options, our friendly and qualified counsellors will be more than happy to meet with you and give you the support you need at the right time for you.

If you’d like to talk to someone we’re here to listen, support and discuss your options with you. Please contact us here, ring our 24/7 helpline or ask us via live chat.

What is a pre-abortion consultation?

At a pre-abortion consultation, a doctor will explain the abortion process to the woman and discuss potential risks and complications involved. The doctor is also required by law to certify that the woman will be no more than 12 weeks pregnant at the time of the abortion. To that end, a woman may be referred for an ultrasound scan so doctors can measure the baby and confirm how many weeks pregnant the woman is.

Is there a waiting period involved?

A woman is required to wait for a minimum of three days after the pre-abortion consultation before an abortion procedure can take place. This waiting period is like a ‘cooling off’ period. It gives a woman some time and space to consider her decision and seek counselling.

Can I change my mind?

You are absolutely free to change your mind at any point up until the actual abortion procedure has commenced. An abortion is an irreversible procedure. Therefore, it is important that you take as much time as you need to ask questions , discuss your feelings and emotions and explore your options. Gianna Care is here to support you in this process.

What medications are used and what do they do?
  • Mifepristone

Mifepristone is the first medication taken in the medical abortion process.

It blocks the hormone progesterone which is naturally produced by a woman’s body during pregnancy. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and causes the fetus and associated tissue including the placenta and pregnancy sac to detach from the uterine lining. The baby cannot continue to grow and survive without the nutrient rich lining of the uterus.

  • Misoprostol

The second medication taken during a medical abortion is misoprostol.

Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, causing strong, painful cramps and heavy bleeding. These symptoms are followed by explusion of the fetus and associated tissues including the placenta and pregnancy sac from the uterus.

Where does a medical abortion take place?

If a woman is under 9 weeks pregnant, the first medication (Mifepristone) is taken at a GP surgery or woman’s health/family planning clinic in the presence of a doctor. The woman is given the second medication (Misoprostol) to take at home 24 to 48 hours later.

If a woman is more than 9 weeks pregnant, she must have an abortion in a hospital. This is because this procedure can only be done in a hospital setting, and possible increased risk of complications. Therefore extra medical supervision is required.

How long does a medical abortion take?

Most women will begin experiencing cramping and heavy bleeding about 1-4 hours after taking Misoprostol. They will pass the baby and associated tissue including the placenta in 4-5 hours.

For some women, the abortion process may take a number of days.

Is a medical abortion painful?

Most women will have strong, painful cramping during a medical abortion. These cramps are stronger than usual period pains.

How long will the cramping last?

It is common for cramping to continue on and off for a number of days following an abortion.

How long will the bleeding last?

Bleeding is likely to be heavy during the abortion process. The bleeding will slow to that of a normal period and may last for a week or two. It is common for light bleeding and spotting to continue for a number of weeks after the abortion process has been completed.

Some women may experience a short episode of pain with a gush of blood or a clot several weeks after the abortion process.

What side effects might I experience?

In addition to cramping a woman may experience:

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. Diarrhoea
  4. Dizziness
  5. Temporary hot flushes or sweats
  6. Tiredness and fatigue
  7. Fever or chills
  8. Anxiety
  9. Back pain
  10. Fainting
  11. Sore/tender breasts
What are the risks and complications involved in a medical abortion?

Risks and complications of a medical abortion include:

  • the abortion may take longer than you thought
  • infection – this happens in 1 to 2 in every 1,000 abortions
  • excessive bleeding, possibly needing a blood transfusion – this happens in less than 1 in 1000 women
  • irregular or prolonged bleeding after the abortion
  • mental health problems such as feeling down or upset

There is also a small risk that pregnancy tissue can remain in the womb after the abortion. This happens in 2 to 3 in every 100 abortions. A minor surgical procedure may be needed to remove the remaining tissue.

For under 9 weeks these can include:


  • Unpredictable time to complete the procedure – variable;
  • Side effects of the medications such as nausea, vomiting – diarrhoea, headache, dizziness, fever/chills – common
  • Infection – this happens in 1-2 in every 1,000 abortions;
  • Unpredictable, irregular or prolonged bleeding after the abortion – variable;
  • Pain during the procedure – common;
  • Very heavy bleeding – variable.Some complications may require a visit to hospital. These can include:
  • The pregnancy is not completely removed – this can happen when the pregnancy has
    been successfully ended, but some of the pregnancy tissue is left behind in the womb –
    this occurs in 2-3 in every 100 abortions;
  • Continuation of pregnancy – this happens in 1-2 in every 100 abortions;
  • Prolonged pain +/- bleeding; this happens in 1-2 in every 100 abortions.Extra procedures that may be necessary:
  • Surgical abortion (in cases of failed or incomplete abortion);
  • Laparoscopy or laparotomy (this is an operation to look inside the abdomen in
    the event of an ectopic pregnancy).
Is a surgical abortion painful?

A woman will require some form of pain relief/sedation to help her cope during a surgical abortion. The sedation a woman is offered varies from hospital to hospital but will be one of the following:

  • Local anaesthetic – anaesthetic is injected into the woman’s cervix and numbs the area.
  • Procedural sedation – some women will be drowsy but fully conscious and responsive whilst others may lose consciousness.
  • General anaesthetic – the woman is completely unconscious and cannot move or feel pain.

Apart from those who receive a general anaesthetic, most women will experience strong cramping during and after the abortion procedure.

Will I bleed after a surgical abortion?

Most women experience bleeding similar to a menstrual period, and may pass blood clots after having a surgical abortion. The bleeding usually stops after 1-2 weeks, but some women experience light bleeding and spotting until their next period.

Some women may experience a short episode of pain, with a gush of blood or a clot several weeks after the abortion.

What side effects might I experience after a surgical abortion?

Some of these side effects are associated with the medications given for sedation whereas others are caused by the actual abortion procedure itself:


  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. Painful cramping
  4. Bleeding and passing clots
  5. Dizziness
  6. Drowsiness
  7. Headache
  8. Low blood pressure
  9. Decreased rate of breathing
  10. Tiredness and fatigue
  11. Loss of memory of the procedure
  12. Anxiety
  13. Fainting
  14. Sore/tender breasts
  15. Milk leaking from the breasts
What are the risks and complications involved in a surgical abortion?

The risks involved in a surgical abortion include:

  1. Unpredictable, irregular or prolonged bleeding after the abortion.
  2. Allergic reaction to the medications used.
  3. Mental health complications including feelings of grief, regret, depression and PASS (Post Abortion Stress Syndrome) (see source A).
  4. Incomplete abortion – retained pieces of the fetus/placenta/associated tissues.
  5. Incomplete abortion – continued pregnancy.
  6. Needing further surgical treatment including laparoscopy or laparotomy.
  7. Prolonged cramping with/without bleeding.
  8. Heavy or irregular bleeding.
  9. Infection of the uterus.
  10. Perforation of the uterus.
  11. Excessive bleeding, requiring blood transfusion.
  12. Injury to the cervix.
  13. Injury to the bowel, bladder, blood vessels or serious injury to the cervix.
  14. Hysterectomy- surgical removal of the womb.