Taking Charge of Your Health: What to Expect From Your Abortion

The Abortion pill (used up to 10 weeks after your last period)

You are given the first pill, mifepristone, at the clinic. It blocks your body’s progesterone which is a hormone the body needs to continue pregnancy. You will also get antibiotics to prevent infection. You are given a Misoprostol pill to take 24-48 hours later at home. This causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus, kind of like a really bad period. You may have cramping and spotting on and off for several weeks. Use pads for at least the first week so you can tell how much you’re bleeding. Common side effects include nausea, bleeding, clotting, cramping, diarrhea, dizziness, tiredness, mild fever or chills on the day you take the misoprostol. You can take ibuprofen but not aspirin as it can make bleeding worse. Your doctor can give you an anti-nausea medication. You’ll then have a follow up appointment to make sure everything is going well. Call your doctor if the bleeding soaks through more than two maxi pads in an hour, for two or more hours in a row, passing clots bigger than a lemon for more than two hours, bad belly pain or cramps that don’t get better with pain medication, a fever of 100.4 or higher more than 24 hours after taking misoprostol. If weakness, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours after taking misoprostol see your doctor.

Vacuum Aspiration or Dilation and Curettage (used up to 14-16 weeks after your last period)

You’ll receive pain medication to help with cramping and maybe sedation. Some will cause you to go to sleep, others won’t. You’ll also get antibiotics. You’ll also get medication to help open your cervix. They may put small dilator sticks called laminaria into the opening of the cervix that will slowly stretch the cervix open. The doctor will inject a numbing medication into or near the cervix. A thin tube will be inserted through the cervix. A small, hand-held suction device or machine will gently take the tissue out of your uterus. They will check to make sure the uterus is empty and sometimes they may use a tool called a curette to remove any left-over tissue. The actual procedure only takes five to ten minutes. You usually stay in a recovery room afterwards for up to about an hour. Don’t do hard work or heavy exercise for several days and don’t have sex or put anything inside your vagina for at least a week. It’s normal to have some bleeding and spotting for several weeks. Many are able to go back to normal activities the next day.

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Dilation and Evacuation (used if it has been 16 weeks or longer since your last period)

Much of the early procedure and medications are the same as Vacuum Aspiration, although you may also need a shot through your belly before the procedure starts. The only other real difference between the two types is that a combination of medical tools are used with suction to ensure that all tissue is removed. It usually takes longer, between 10-20 minutes.

Abortion past 28 weeks

The majority of abortions that occur in the third trimester were wanted pregnancies where a complication occurred and the procedure is greatly needed. Dilation and Evacuation is generally the same, though sometimes the dilator sticks called laminaria are used for longer to help dilate the cervix more. The procedure usually takes longer. Some people choose to be induced and try to give birth to the fetus whole to help the mourning process. Other times, because of the local laws, the individual is forced to go through labor.

After an in-clinic abortion

Don’t do hard work or heavy exercise for several days and don’t have sex or put anything inside your vagina for at least a week. It’s normal to have some bleeding and spotting for several weeks. Many are able to go back to normal activities the next day, although recovery for D&E can take longer. Call a doctor if you soak two maxi pads per hour for two hours, have belly pain or cramps that don’t get better with pain medication, or have a fever of 100.4 or higher. Your period should go back to normal after a month or two after the procedure. You can start birth control right away, some have the IUD inserted during the same procedure as the abortion. 

Abortion Safety

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available. Studies show those that get abortions actually tend to have less complications than having their wisdom teeth removed. The earlier the procedure is done, the safer it is. When asked, those that get an abortion say that the number one feeling they have is relief. Usually if they do have negative feelings about their abortion, they say it’s due to the stigma and judgement that comes with it. 

For non-judgemental emotional support after an abortion you can call Exhale: https://exhaleprovoice.org/ or backline: https://www.yourbackline.org/

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