If you’re pregnant but don’t want to have a child, you can terminate the pregnancy. That’s called an abortion. Read about what it involves.
Going to your own doctor or an abortion clinic
Are you thinking about terminating a pregnancy? Or not sure what to do about it? Then speak to your doctor. You can also talk to a pregnancy counsellor at an abortion clinic. They’ll give you the information you need to make a decision. You do not need a referral from the doctor to go to an abortion clinic.
5 days to think about it
After your talk with your doctor or at the abortion clinic, you are given 5 days to think about it. So if you decide to have an abortion, it can take place 5 days later. In the Netherlands, this thinking time is a legal requirement. If you’ve only just become pregnant, you can have an early termination. That does not require the 5-day thinking time.
If your period is less than 16 days late, you can have an early termination to end the pregnancy. ‘Late’ is from the day your period should have started. For an early termination, the 5-day thinking time is not required.
If you don’t know when your period should have started, you can still work out how long you’ve been pregnant. Count the number of days from the first day of your last period until now. That is the length of the pregnancy. If you’ve been pregnant for less than 6 weeks and 2 days, you can have an early termination straightaway at an abortion clinic.
If you look back in your diary, you may remember that your period started on a certain day. Count from that day the number of weeks and days until today. That’s how long you’ve been pregnant.
Some doctors give pills for an early termination. But not all doctors do that.
There are different ways to terminate a pregnancy. Choose the method that suits you best. The possibilities will also depend on how long you’ve been pregnant.
- Abortion pill. If you’ve been pregnant for less than 9 weeks, you can terminate the pregnancy with a medical abortion. This is called the ‘abortion pill’. You usually have to go to an abortion clinic for it, but some doctors prescribe these pills for an early termination.
- Vacuum aspiration. A vacuum or suction aspiration is possible if you are less than 13 weeks pregnant. A thin plastic tube is inserted through the vagina to empty the uterus. During this surgical procedure, the pregnancy is gently sucked out of the
- If you are more than 13 weeks pregnant, an abortion is still possible. This can be done up until 22 weeks. The uterus is then emptied using a tube and some special instruments. But not all abortion clinics do this.
You usually have an ultrasound scan first, to find out the exact length of the pregnancy. That is also necessary to see which method can be used for the termination. An ultrasound will only be done if you give your consent. You don’t have to look if you don’t want to.
If your period is only a couple of days late, the ultrasound might not show anything. You may then have to wait another 1 or 2 weeks for the procedure. A vacuum aspiration won’t be effective if you have only been pregnant for a couple of days. The embryo is too small.
When you go to an abortion clinic for a termination, they will ask you some questions, like:
- When did you last have your period?
- Can you explain why you want to have an abortion?
- Have you thought about it properly?
- Is an abortion your own choice?
- Are you unsure about your decision?
- Would you like to talk to someone about it?
- Would you like to look at the ultrasound scan?
- Is there any risk of you having an STI?
- Have you thought about contraception after the abortion?
Doctors and nurses at the abortion clinic do not judge your situation in any way. They respect your decision, whatever that is. They will give you information about the different ways to terminate the pregnancy. You will also be told about possible side effects and risks, and about pain relief.
Are you under 16?
If you’re not yet 16, you cannot make a decision about an abortion yourself. You need the consent of a parent or guardian.
Don’t you have their consent, or are you worried about how your parents would react? If you are aged between 12 and 16, an abortion is still possible. The abortion doctor will arrange for you to talk to another adult. A social worker or a doctor, for example. The abortion doctor does this to make sure that no one is making you have the abortion, and that you have thought about it properly.
Forced to have sex?
Were you forced to have sex? Tell the doctor or counsellor at the abortion clinic. You can trust them. They’re not allowed to tell your parents, because they are obliged to keep everything confidential.
Perhaps you want to have an abortion, but you’re still a bit unsure. Talk to the doctor about your doubts or worries. You can always change your mind. You can also take more time to decide. What’s important is that you’re sure you are making the right choice.
If you still don’t know what to do and you need some help deciding, talk to someone at www.onbedoeldzwanger.info/english, available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Call or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also tell you where you can get help in your area.
Fiom is an organisation that gives impartial information and support when you’re making a decision. Organisations like Siriz and ‘Er is hulp’ (there is help) are not in favour of abortions.
If you live in the Netherlands, you do not have to pay for an abortion. The abortion clinic does not send an invoice to your health insurance company either.
An abortion can be a difficult decision. It helps if you can talk to your boyfriend, parents or a close friend about it. Get support from people you trust. Make sure you don’t have to deal with it all on your own!
When you go to an abortion clinic, you can always take someone with you. Your boyfriend or a female friend, for example. The doctor will only talk to you. So if you have any doubts or questions, or problems with your relationship, you can talk about those then. Health professionals are obliged to keep anything you tell them confidential, so will not tell anyone else. That is only allowed if you give your consent.
People who are against abortion sometimes demonstrate outside abortion clinics, or try to talk to women who are going in. That’s why it is a good idea to take someone with you. If you would like to take someone with to the clinic, but don’t know who to ask, you could apply for an ‘abortion buddy’. That’s someone who goes with you and makes sure you can go in without being harassed. You can arrange this through the Dutch site www.samennaardekliniek.nl.
Emotions after an abortion
After an abortion, you may experience all kinds of emotions: relief, sadness, guilt or shame. Some women feel unsure afterwards whether they made the right decision to have an abortion. That's quite normal. Mostly those feelings just go away again. Talking to someone about them does help. You can also make an appointment with someone from a Sense clinic or a social worker at Fiom.
Some people say you can develop mental health problems after an abortion. That’s not actually the case. Women who have mental health problems after an abortion often had those problems before the abortion. People or organisations who say things like this are often against abortion.
3 or 4 weeks after the procedure you will have an appointment with your doctor or the abortion clinic. The doctor will check whether the termination went well. They will also give you advice about contraception. If you have any physical problems, or difficulty dealing with your feelings about the abortion, tell the doctor about it.
Very occasionally, the pregnancy hasn’t been terminated. You can do a pregnancy test yourself to check that you’re no longer pregnant.