So You Had an Abortion: What Happens Now?

When people talk about about abortion, they generally focus on the pregnancy and the procedure itself. But once you’ve had an abortion, what will happen? What is the best way to take care of yourself? Will it be painful or bloody, or make you sick? What medicines will make you feel better?

First, what happens in the hours and days after your abortion will vary depending on how far along in the pregnancy you were. You may have nothing but mild bleeding and crampy feelings for a few days, or you may have severe bleeding and pain that does not go away for a couple of weeks. Planned Parenthood says that for a D&C, “most women feel pain similar to menstrual cramps. For others, abortion is more uncomfortable.” You will probably have cramping throughout the first day after the abortion, and then it should ease up, although you will may have bleeding for up to two weeks. The bleeding may stop and start a few times, so you might want to keep using pads for a few days even if it has stopped, in case it starts up again unexpectedly. It’s normal to have small, brown clots for a while, especially in the morning, because blood has been sitting in your uterus or vagina while you sleep and can make clots. You can take a painkiller like ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, or Aleve to help with the pain. A heating pad on your abdomen may help, as well as massaging your stomach over your uterus (if it isn’t too sore). Press down on your uterus, just above your pelvic bone, and rub in a circular motion.

Don’t put anything in your vagina for a couple of weeks after a surgical abortion. That means no tampons, penises, dildos, or fingers! Your cervix has been opened up, and putting things in your vagina increases your risk for introducing bacteria into your uterus and getting an infection. If you have a medical abortion (that is, if you take pills like mifepristone or misoprostol to induce an abortion), it is generally safe to use tampons or have sex within a few days of taking the second pill. However, bleeding often lasts longer with a pill-induced abortion, because a surgical abortion removes most of the uterine lining manually, whereas it has to come out on its own with a medical abortion.

Complications after an abortion are very rare: Before 12 weeks’ gestation, only about 2% of patients experience complications. However, if you start to notice any bad-smelling discharge from your vagina (particularly if you start passing large clots), if your pain is getting worse instead of better, or if you run a fever over 100.4°F, please call Planned Parenthood or your doctor, or go to the emergency room. You may have an infection that needs antibiotics. Don’t panic! An infection doesn’t mean that you are going to be sterilized or that you did anything wrong, but it does need treatment, just like any infection.

What about feeling pregnant after an abortion? Feelings of nausea and breast soreness should go away within a day or so of a surgical abortion, and within several days of a medical abortion. You can get pregnant right after an abortion: start using some kind of birth control immediately! Generally, women ovulate within a few weeks of an abortion, which means they can get pregnant again, perhaps unexpectedly. However, “the pregnancy hormone, HCG (human chorionic gonadatropin), can remain in the body for up to 60 days after an abortion … This can lead to pregnancy tests with false positive results for women who take home pregnancy tests.”

In the end, yes, having an abortion will probably be somewhat painful, and you’ll have bleeding. But you should be about to go back to your regular life – back to work, school, taking care of your kids, having fun – within a day. Buy a pack of maxi-pads and a heating pad, take your ibuprofen or Aleve regularly, and treat yourself well for a few days.

Helpful References

Early Options of New York City. (n.d.). After your abortion. Available from http://www.earlyabortionoptions.com/after-your-abortion.html

Planned Parenthood. (2011). Abortion Q&A with Dr. Cullins. Available from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/ask-dr-cullins/cullins-ab-5508.htm

Planned Parenthood. (2011). Caring for yourself after an abortion. Available from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ppscm/caring-yourself-after-an-abortion-23094.htm

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Queenjulie

I’m becoming a nurse because I really like sticking needles in people. I also like gangrene, benign cysts, crepitus, and weird lung sounds. I watch videos of IV insertions on YouTube for fun, and I make my kids let me practice using my stethoscope on them. I no longer hold my husband's hand while we're watching tv; now I hold his wrist so I can keep an eye on his pulse rate. He's remarkably tolerant.

9 thoughts on “So You Had an Abortion: What Happens Now?”

  1. I know I’m kind of late to this discussion, but can we talk about the hormones and your emotional state afterwards?

    I don’t know if this is common, but due to hormone flucuations after my (medical) abortion, I had some crazy mood swings. I was crying at the drop of a hat for days afterward. This occurred for about a week after the fact, and then passed.

    It was upsetting for my partner, who was so supportive of my decision, and was there through the whole process. I was crying because the daffodils he bought me had died, and when I dropped a jar of pickled garlic and it broke on the floor. It was uncharacteristic of me.

    I was confused, because I never once second guessed the decision I made, and only felt relief afterwards. There was no feeling of “mourning”. I do have a history of anxiety and depression, and I would have sought counselling if I thought I was sinking in to the depths, but this was different. I didn’t have that feeling of despair that accompanies my depression, I was just…”weepy”.

    1. I’ve had two abortions. After the first one, I was kind of a mess; I threw up in the waiting room, I ran a fever, I felt dazed and out of it. My hormones were all over the place. I kind of stumbled around like a zombie for almost two weeks. I remember distinctly having my husband come upstairs and put me back in bed after I decided what I really needed to do was clean out bedroom.

      After my second abortion, after which I felt fine and dandy, I realized how strange my emotional/physical state was before. I had nothing to compare it to, so I assumed the weirdness in emotions and hormones was just normal. But looking back on it, I realized I must have been having some post-abortion complications that I probably should have gone to the doctor about. I consider it lucky that things turned out ok.

      Like you though, I never felt like I was ‘mourning’ anything, nor did I regret having the procedure. I just wasn’t 100% myself.

    2. Hey Camille: I’m sorry I didn’t include that in my post; I should have. I have been lucky enough not to need an abortion myself, so I can’t say from personal experience what the emotional fluctuations are like afterward, but I would guess that you were perfectly normal. (It sounds like SlayBelle had a somewhat serious reaction that might have been due to the actual medical procedure, such as a mild anesthetic reaction.) This site–http://www.feministhealth.org/home/page.asp?pn=health–mentions mood swings and emotional issues as a normal part of post-abortion recovery.

      Although I haven’t had an abortion, I have been pregnant twice, and I can assure you, I had virtually the same issues you did in early pregnancy–it may have been the upswing in HCG as much as the sudden drop in it after the procedure that caused your mood swings. I’m just glad that it passed relatively quickly (although I’m sure it felt like forever at the time) and didn’t lead to a more severe depression.

  2. Not to be all “you’re awesome” but thank you for writing this. I’ve never needed an abortion, but if I were to get pregnant tomorrow, I would have one scheduled in two days. I appreciate the upfront information. There’s a reason so many women have migrated to PersephoneMagazine.com recently.

  3. Thank you so much for this article. Like paperispatient said nicely, there is so much bullshit out there about abortion, it is nice to have a reference for people contemplating one but unsure of what exactly happens. I am really enjoying your articles for their information, and this one pushed the articles from fun, interesting and informative into the realm of making the world a better place for many people without access to proper information. Thanks you, thank you, thank you.

  4. I think it’s so important to be able to discuss this in such an open and straightforward way. There’s still so much mystery and stigma surrounding abortion, and I’ve talked to so many people who don’t understand the various procedures themselves, and I’d imagine that at least as many people don’t know what to expect after an abortion.

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