Getting an abortion can be a difficult decision for many people, and it's not one that anyone makes lightly. There are a lot of unknowns, and that can make the whole experience feel more overwhelming, especially if you can't find answers you're looking for prior to the procedure.
Today, we want to help you understand what you can expect during an abortion. The more you know beforehand, the better able you will be to make a truly informed decision. There are a few different abortion procedures, all of which we'll cover here.
1. Medication Abortions
Medication abortions are abortions you have by taking a series of two pills, mifepristone and misopristol. These are prescribed by a doctor, and are commonly referred to as "the abortion pill" even though you take two pills.
Mifepristone is the pill you take first, usually at the doctor's office. This pill blocks your body's progesterone, causing the pregnancy to stop growing (fetal demise).
Misoprostol is the second pill, and can either be taken immediately after or up to 48 hours after taking the first pill. This will cause your cervix to expand so you can pass the pregnancy.
What to expect physically
Most women experience mild to heavy cramping and bleeding during and up to two weeks after the abortion. It's also common to feel nauseous and to vomit.
What to expect emotionally
Every person is different, and the emotions you feel are yours and are valid. Emotions are a gauge to let us know how we're doing, and every person's experience with abortion is different. Some feel relief, while others experience emotional pain. It's okay if you feel sadness, grief, or regret. Regardless of your emotional state, make sure you aren't walking this road in isolation. The Open Arms Pregnancy Clinic offers an after-abortion support group to provide a safe place to process whatever you're feeling so you aren't doing that alone.
The recovery time can vary between women, depending on how long the cramping, bleeding, and nausea all last. If your symptoms last longer than two weeks, you should consult your doctor. Let him or her know you had a medication abortion and exactly what your symptoms have been.
2. Surgical Abortions
Surgical abortions generally happen if the pregnancy is over 10 weeks, and there are different procedures based on how far along you are. For all, you'll be given a pain medication to numb the cervix area.
Aspiration abortion involves dilating the cervix with absorbent rods that may be put in a few days prior to the procedure. Once dilated enough, a long tube connected to a suction device will be inserted into the uterus to suction out the pregnancy.
Some common side effects to aspiration abortion are sweating, nausea, feeling faint, and cramping. Some women also experience bleeding, blood clots, damage to the cervix, and a perforation of the uterus.
D&E abortion stands for dilation and evacuation. This procedure is performed after 16 weeks and involves dilating the cervix in a method similar to the aspiration abortion. A shot is sometimes given before the procedure begins to ensure fetal demise. A long tube will then be inserted into the uterus to pull out the pregnancy; forceps are sometimes also necessary to remove large parts. Then the lining of your uterus is scraped to ensure all has been removed. This procedure usually takes 15-30 minutes and an antibiotic will likely be prescribed to prevent infection.
Common side effects are cramping, bleeding, and nausea for up to two weeks. And although more rare, these side effects are sometimes experienced by women: a perforated uterus, damage to the lining of the uterus, damage to the cervix, blood clots, and infection. If your symptoms last longer than two weeks, you should contact your doctor immediately.
It's common to feel a mixture of emotions after your abortion procedure - relief, sadness, grief, and regret are all possible. Your body went through a surgery so it's important to take the time necessary to heal. It can also be a good idea to seek counseling to help process the big emotions you feel, or if you aren't feeling anything at all.
The most important thing is to acknowledge to yourself the truth about how you're feeling. Anything you feel is legitimate and is worth exploring and seeking help if it feels too overwhelming to tackle yourself. Make sure you're getting enough rest and taking care of yourself in other ways as well.
If you need someone to talk to before or after your abortion, the caring and professional staff of the Open Arms Pregnancy Clinic is always available to sit and listen and help unpack how you're feeling. We can help you come up with next action steps if that's helpful. We're here for you!