Your Life: Dear Miriam - Why GP Abortions Are a Safer Step for Women; HEALTH

Article excerpt

Byline: DR. MIRIAM STOPPARD

I welcome the news that women will soon be able to have early abortions at doctors' surgeries across the country.

It will mean safer abortions with fewer medical complications and less stress than with surgery. It's also less expensive for the NHS.

Already the Government-funded British Pregnancy Advisory Service is running an early abortion service at a Wolverhampton GP surgery and has approval to set up another in Newcastle.

Primary care trusts, including ones in London, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire, are planning to follow suit.

Previously, abortions could only be carried out in hospitals, private clinics and approved NHS centres.

What it involves

This service only applies to abortions in the first nine weeks of pregnancy and involves taking drugs rather than having surgery.

Women go along twice, on separate days, to their doctor's surgery, where they'll be given two different drugs that mimic a natural miscarriage.

The first tablet blocks the hormone that makes the lining of the womb suitable for a fertilised egg.

You can go home and carry on as normal afterwards, then return two days later for the second tablet. This contains a hormone that breaks down the womb lining, causing bleeding as with a natural miscarriage.

This part can be quite painful but you'll be given painkillers.

Side effects may include sickness, vomiting or diarrhoea but it's still much less invasive and disruptive than any other method.

Your nurse or doctor will explain what to expect and what to do if anything unexpected happens.

Safest option

Whatever method is used, the earlier an abortion is carried out, the better.

While abortions are legal up to 24 weeks, it's ideal for them to be done in the first 12 weeks for medical reasons. With each week that passes, risks increase.

The pill method means a much lower risk of the complications that come with surgery such as infection or excessive bleeding, plus there's no need for anaesthetic, which carries its own very low risks. You'll recover much quicker, too.

Because their GP's surgery is likely to be nearer home than the local hospital, women are more likely to get help earlier, keep both appointments and have a successful outcome.

And the earlier you have an abortion, the less traumatic it is.

Even when women choose to have an abortion, knowing that it's the right decision for them, some will still take several months to recover from this psychologically.

What critics claim

Critics say that allowing abortions at GPs' surgeries will lead to even more taking place - there are 200,000 a year already in England and Wales - but I doubt this very much.

Going through the process of ending a pregnancy is still much more physically disruptive and difficult than preventing it in the first place. …