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Surgical termination of pregnancy (SToP)

A surgical termination of pregnancy (SToP) or abortion, is an operation done in a hospital or a day surgery.

The process usually involves a suction curette (removal of tissue from the uterus) and in most cases is done under general anaesthetic.

It is different to medication termination of pregnancy (MToP) which is another type of abortion.

Is a surgical termination right for me?

Most people are suitable for a surgical termination of pregnancy up to 14-16 weeks of pregnancy. 

After 16 weeks a doctor can provide a termination with your consent if your doctor reasonably believes that continuing the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to your physical or mental health than if the pregnancy was terminated.

Your doctor must consult a second doctor who agrees with this. At least one of the doctors must specialise in obstetrics or gynaecology.

Why choose surgical termination instead of medication termination?

A surgical termination of pregnancy (SToP) may be the best termination option for you if: 

  • You do not have a suitable location or time to go through the process of a medication termination of pregnancy (MToP)
  • The first day of your last period was more than 63 days ago, making MToP inaccessible to you. SToP can be carried out up to 16 weeks in Tasmania, and up to 24 weeks in some other states 
  • Medical staff are with you for the SToP procedure, but MToP is done at home under instruction
  • SToP generally has less pain and bleeding than MToP
  • SToP has a lower rate of complications and a higher success rate than MToP
  • If you are breastfeeding, you can continue to feed if you have a SToP

What happens during a surgical termination?

  1. If you are considering a termination, you will need to make an appointment with Family Planning Tasmania or your GP for a discussion about your options, and a referral if you choose to proceed. 
  2. Some doctors (other than those at Family Planning Tasmania clinics) may object to termination of pregnancy. The law states that as soon as they know you are considering options other than continuing with the pregnancy, they need to provide you with contact information for providers who can help you.
  3. Once you have seen Family Planning or your GP and you have been referred to a SToP provider, you will attend hospital for day surgery. Surgical terminations are available in public hospitals in Hobart, Launceston and NW Tasmania. Some private gynaecologists also undertake the procedure at a cost, which may be an option for you if you have private health cover.
  4. You will be placed under a light anaesthetic and the surgeon will insert a thin plastic tube into your uterus and remove the contents using suction.
  5. You will recover in hospital and return home that day, but you won’t be allowed to drive yourself.
  6. The process in the hospital only takes up to 5 hours, including preparation and recovery. The surgery itself only takes about 15 minutes.

Possible complications

  • There is a low risk that the operation (a curette) will not remove all of the tissue forming part of the pregnancy. This can cause a lot of bleeding and may mean that you need to have another operation.
  • You can sometimes get an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics after surgical termination.
  • There is a low risk that your cervix (opening to the uterus or womb) or the uterus itself can be damaged. This is rare and in most cases results in a small tear that heals itself.
  • There is a low risk of a lot of bleeding and in a rare few cases a blood transfusion may be needed.
  • Any operation that needs to use an anaesthetic has risks. These risks are very low if you are healthy. The doctor will explain the risks to you before the operation.

If you have decided to have a termination (abortion), please contact Family Planning Tasmania or your GP or other health professional as soon as possible.

If you are unsure about your decision, contact us to request a non-judgmental and confidential pregnancy counselling appointment (30 minutes with either a doctor or nurse).

This content is provided for general information and education purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances. It is not to be relied on in substitution for specific advice from a medical professional and Family Planning Tasmania does not accept responsibility for such use. Family Planning Tasmania has taken every effort to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate, however information and knowledge is subject to change. Family Planning Tasmania advises that you always consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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