An abortion means ending a pregnancy. The Swedish Abortion Act permits free abortion, and it is completely up to you whether or not to have one. A number of different methods can be used to perform an abortion. The main difference between the methods is that you either take tablets or undergo a minor operation.
There are a variety of reasons that you might choose to have an abortion. Regardless of your reason, you have the same right to an abortion as everyone else. Whatever the reason and whether the decision is easy or difficult for you – counselling may still be helpful. Your partner or someone else involved in the situation might benefit from counselling as well.
Having an abortion does not mean it will be more difficult to become pregnant again in the future.
The decision is yours
According to the Abortion Act, you have the right to decide whether or not to have an abortion. You are also entitled to change your mind at any point. It may be wise to talk to the other parent about what to do. If the two of you are able to make a joint decision, the situation will be easier. But sometimes that's not possible and in that case, the decision is completely yours.
What if you are not the person making the decision?
The Abortion Act states that the person carrying the baby makes the final decision about whether or not to have an abortion. You might understandably feel frustrated or upset if you are another person who is involved but cannot participate in the decision. You may have the same feelings as the person carrying the baby. You also have the right to talk about your feelings concerning a possible abortion. Find out more in the section entitled "Counselling before and after an abortion."
When can you have an abortion?
Your pregnancy starts on the first day of your last menstrual period, not on the date of conception. You are entitled to have an abortion through the 18th week of pregnancy without explaining why.
After that point, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare needs to grant its approval. Then, you must have special reasons for your decision to have an abortion. For example, you may suffer from alcohol or drug problems, have mental ill-health or know that the foetus is seriously injured or deformed. Your age may also be an issue. The clinic staff will help you apply for approval.
The National Board of Health and Welfare will not approve an abortion if the foetus is capable of living outside your body. That's why the 22nd week of pregnancy is regarded as the latest that an abortion may be performed.
Preparing for an abortion
Call an abortion or gynaecology clinic if you are considering having an abortion. They will set up an appointment to determine how long you have been pregnant. That will also give you a chance to discuss the method that will work best for you. The staff member will offer you the opportunity to see a counsellor or psychologist.
Preparations for an abortion differ depending on the method you decide on. For example, you may be told not to eat or drink for 24 hours prior to the procedure.
How an abortion is performed
A number of different methods are available for performing an abortion. How long you have been pregnant largely determines the method that is best for you. Also, each clinic has its own routines. Your personal preference is important as well.
A medical abortion is the most common procedure before the 9th week of pregnancy. The clinic will give you tablets to start the abortion. You may begin to bleed once you get back home. You will return to the clinic two days later. They will give you medication, usually through the vagina, that causes your uterus to contract. After several hours at the clinic, you will experience bleeding with clumps, followed by the expulsion of the foetus. You can take an analgesic if you feel any pain. Later the same day, you will be able to go home.
You might be able to take the second round of tablets at home instead of returning to the clinic. In that case, another adult must be there with you at all times.
You will typically experience bleeding that resembles menstruation, or is a little more profuse, for a few weeks following the abortion. A few weeks after the abortion, you will be able to see or talk to a gynaecologist or midwife. You will have the chance to talk about your experience of the abortion and take a pregnancy test.
The biggest advantage of a medical abortion is that it is easier on your body. You can choose the method at any time during the period that abortions are permitted. Some clinics, however, do not perform medical abortions between the 9th and 12th weeks of pregnancy. They rely entirely on surgical abortions during that time.
A surgical abortion may be an option until the 12th or 13th week of pregnancy, but usually not at a very early stage. The operation is minor. You might be given medication through your vagina to soften your cervix. While you are under general anaesthesia, the doctor will insert an instrument that is connected to a suction device into your uterus. The foetus and placenta will then be carefully extracted. The intervention takes a couple of minutes, and the entire procedure is over in 20 minutes. You will remain at the clinic for a few hours in order to rest. You are likely to bleed less than after a medical abortion.
Abortions after the 12th or 13th week of pregnancy automatically use the medical method – the entire process requires more time and you will stay at the clinic longer. The abortion may take anything from a few hours to several days, typically around 24 hours. The doctor might have to scape your uterus if part of the placenta is still there.
Are you younger than 18?
Even if you have not yet turned 18, whether or not to have an abortion is completely up to you. The staff at the abortion clinic have an oath of confidentiality and cannot notify anyone of your appointments. Nevertheless, they may suggest that you tell one of the adults with whom you are living that you are planning to have an abortion. Knowing that someone at home can provide support both before and after the abortion may make things easier for you.
If you don't feel comfortable telling anyone with whom you are living, consider talking to another adult whom you trust – a relative, close friend, counsellor, school nurse, etc. The closer you are to turning 18, the less the adults who are responsible for you are entitled to know about your appointments at the clinic.
If telling someone at home is out of the question (perhaps there is a risk that they will harm or punish you if they find out), the clinic staff may talk to another adult instead. A counsellor or other source of support may be able to help you in such situations.
If the clinic staff are planning to contact an adult who is responsible for you, you will always be informed first.
What happens after an abortion?
You can live your normal life after an abortion, but you might want to take the opportunity to rest for a day or two. You may have some menstrual-like pain for the first few days. You will typically experience bleeding that resembles menstruation, or is a little more profuse, for a few weeks following the abortion. The length of time varies from person to person. The quantity of blood will largely depend on the abortion method that you chose.
You are more prone to infection after an abortion than under ordinary circumstances. To reduce the risk of infection, avoid vaginal intercourse as long as you are experiencing bleeding or brown vaginal discharge. Do not use a tampon or menstrual cup, and take showers instead of baths.
You will probably start menstruating again after 4-6 weeks.
If you have an abortion, it will be just as easy for you to become pregnant again in the future.
Counselling before and after an abortion
Regardless of why you are having an abortion, or whether the decision is easy or difficult, someone who can help you sort out your thoughts may provide a source of relief. You may feel the need to talk and obtain support both before making a decision and once an abortion has been performed. Even if you are not the person who is pregnant but are involved in the situation, you may benefit from having someone you can turn to.
It is not unusual to feel depressed after having an abortion. On the other hand, you may experience a sense of relief. Or both feelings at the same time. You may not feel very much at the time but the emotions can come later.
A lot of people ask someone close to them for support, but professional counselling is also available. Talking with somebody (a counsellor or psychologist at the abortion clinic, a midwife at the gynaecology clinic, etc.) who is accustomed to the questions that arise in these situations may make you feel more at ease.
Call the clinic if you think you might be interested in counselling – you will not be charged for the services. Counselling is available even if a long time has passed since you had an abortion.