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Guide to Abortion Terms

If you’re considering an abortion or you want to learn more about it, then you may come across some of the following terms relating to the termination of pregnancy. Some of them are quite straightforward, but it can be difficult to work out what some of the terms mean. Here is a quick guide to some of the most important terms relating to abortion.

Abortion vs. Termination of Pregnancy

Two terms that you’ll hear a lot are abortion and termination of pregnancy. You might wonder what the difference is, but these two terms actually mean the same thing. An abortion is a procedure to end or terminate a pregnancy. Some people prefer one term, while others feel more comfortable using the other.

Glossary of Abortion Terms

Here are some of the key terms relating to the termination of pregnancy:

  • Abortifacient: a medication or other substance that can cause an abortion. During a medical abortion, we use two different medications to trigger the termination of pregnancy.
  • Cervix: the neck of the womb, which sits at the top of the vagina. During a surgical abortion, the cervix may be dilated (relaxed so that it opens up) so that the surgical instruments can be passed through it.
  • Ectopic pregnancy: when a fertilised egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. It can be very painful and must be treated to prevent serious complications. It is impossible to carry an ectopic pregnancy to term, so you will need to have an abortion if an ultrasound scan shows that the foetus has implanted in the wrong place.
  • Embryo: the developing baby. This term in used from fertilisation until the end of the eighth week of pregnancy.
  • Fallopian tube: the tubes that connect your ovaries to the womb. Eggs travel along these tubes and are usually fertilised in the fallopian tubes before reaching the uterus where they can implant.
  • Fertilisation: what happens when the egg and sperm join together. It usually occurs
  • Foetus: the developing baby. This term in generally used after eight weeks.
  • Implantation: when the fertilised egg attaches to the womb lining. The embryo must implant correctly in order to keep developing.
  • Ovulation: when a mature egg is released from your ovary. It usually happens once a month about halfway through your cycle, unless you’re taking hormonal contraception or using a copper coil. You can get pregnant if you have sex in the days before or just after ovulating.
  • Pessary: a medication that is inserted into the vagina. If you have a medical abortion, the second drug will usually be given as a pessary.
  • Spontaneous abortion: a medical term that is sometimes used for a miscarriage. It is not the same as termination of pregnancy as it is unplanned and happens for natural medical reasons.
  • Uterus: a medical term for the womb, which is the organ that holds the foetus. It is the lining of the womb that is shed during your period.
  • Vagina: this is the passage that connects your womb to the outside of your body. The external genitalia can also be called the vulva.

If you come across any other unfamiliar or confusing terms, then you can always ask your doctor at the 132 Healthwise clinic to explain them. It’s important for you to be fully informed so that you can feel confident making decisions about your pregnancy.

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