Supporting someone through their abortion

An early medical abortion companion guide

November 2023

Useful information about abortion in Ireland

In Ireland, a woman or pregnant person can have an abortion for any pregnancy that is less than 12 weeks. The decision is theirs and they do not have to explain their reasons to anyone.

People accessing abortion care must attend two appointments with a doctor. Between the first and second appointment, there is a mandatory three-day waiting period. This can be a stressful time for many, but it is imposed by law and unfortunately cannot be waived.

Up to 9 weeks of pregnancy, early medical abortion care can be accessed from:

  • providing GPs
  • family planning clinics
  • women’s health centres.

If a person is more than 9 weeks pregnant, the doctor will refer them to a hospital for their abortion care.

The first appointment is usually over the phone and the second is in the clinic. At the second appointment, the person usually takes the first medication with the doctor and receives the second medication to take at home 1-2 days later.

In addition to the medication, they receive a Home Care Pack which includes information leaflets, painkillers, pads, and a low-sensitivity pregnancy test.

What happens after taking the medication?

After taking the first medication, the person may experience some light bleeding or no bleeding at all.

After taking the second medication, they are likely to experience strong, painful cramping and bleeding. The bleeding will usually be heavier than a normal period for a day or two and may contain clots and tissue. Some people may also experience vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and a high temperature. Light to moderate bleeding Is likely to continue for two to four weeks following the early medical abortion.

How will they feel emotionally?

Everyone’s experience of abortion is different. In addition to the physical discomfort or pain, some people may feel low during this time, as their body adjusts to changing hormone levels.

In the days and weeks afterwards, some people may feel a sense of relief while others may experience a sense of loss. Some may feel both of these things. All of these emotions are extremely common. There is no right or wrong way for a person to feel during and after their abortion.

 There is no right or wrong way for a person to feel during and after their abortion and it is up to them when, how, and if they choose to talk about their experience with others.

How can I support?

Emotional Support

  • Be kind, caring and empathetic.
  • Listen to the person you are supporting. Let them tell you how they feel and what they need.
  • Be comfortable with silence. Some people may not want to talk and that’s okay.
  • Only offer advice if it has been asked for.
  • Don’t make any judgement on their decision or make light of their decision.

Practical Support

  • Offer to take them to and from the appointment. You can go into the clinic, but the appointment is confidential, and they will see the doctor on their own.
  • Offer to take care of their children, if needed.
  • Offer to shop for necessities like painkillers or maternity pads.
  • Help them figure out their preferred place to have the abortion.
  • Think about what would make them feel comfortable, for example a cosy blanket, a hot water bottle, a cup of tea.
  • Plan ways to distract them from the pain or discomfort such as watching a film together or putting on a playlist.
  • Treat them to something you know they like, such as flowers, their favourite tea or chocolate.
  • Ask if it would be helpful for you to read the information in the Home Care Pack.
  • Make a plan for what you will do if they need medical assistance.

Abortion and privacy

Having an abortion is a personal decision, which many people prefer to keep private. It is important not to mention someone’s abortion to others without their consent. This includes family members, friends, colleagues and partners. Don’t assume the person you are supporting has told other people about their abortion, and remember that it is up to them when, how, and if they choose to talk about their experience with others.

At all times, respect the privacy and boundaries of the person you are supporting.

Download a pdf version of the companion guide leaflet here.