Once a woman has made the decision to terminate a pregnancy, the consideration of whether to undergo a surgical or a medical abortion is weighed up. Both procedures come with their own pros and cons.  In Australia the medication required to complete a medical termination has been listed on the PBS for authority prescription strictly for a pregnancy of gestation to under 9 weeks.

When considering either option, numerous questions naturally arise. Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about medical termination that might assist with the decision-making process.

Are there any time/gestation limitations for medical abortions?

  • Medical abortion can be performed as soon as a pregnancy can be confirmed as intrauterine.
  • A medical abortion can be undertaken if gestation is under 9 weeks (you are nine weeks or less into the pregnancy) in accordance with TGA recommendations.
  • Beyond nine weeks a surgical abortion is required.

How does a medical abortion work?

  • Medical abortion refers to the process of initiating an abortion using the combination of 2 drugs, known as ‘the abortion pills.’ It is this medication that causes the pregnancy to miscarry.
  • Is hospitalisation required?

No. As a medical abortion does not involve surgery or anaesthetic, patients can experience the process in the privacy and comfort of their own home.

  • Are there any side effects?

There are a few common side effects to this procedure. Side effects are a result of the drugs used and can include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headache and fever. Pain and bleeding are also common side effects of a medical abortion. Other complications, which are rare but can require treatment, are heavy bleeding and infection. 

  • Is there a risk that the procedure won’t work?

Around 5% of medical abortions can be unsuccessful. If the pregnancy continues to grow or if there are retained products of conception, surgical intervention will be required. A follow up ultrasound and blood tests are therefore required to confirm that the abortion has been successful.

  • Do I need a referral?

A referral is not essential within New South Wales. However, consulting a GP before undertaking a procedure of any kind is recommended.


For more information on medical abortion visit our website or contact one of our five gynaecology clinics in Wollongong, Canberra, Newcastle, Gosford or Sydney.