After a Vacuum Aspiration or Dilation and Evacuation Abortion
After a vacuum aspiration abortion or a dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion, you will go to a recovery area to rest. The staff will periodically check your vital signs and bleeding. It is normal to bleed moderately or even to pass small clots; the intensity of the cramping usually lessens during the first half hour.
Depending on the procedure, the type of anesthesia you had, and how you are feeling, you may stay in the recovery area from 20 minutes to an hour or more. If you had IV sedation or general anesthesia, you will need someone to drive or accompany you home.
Before you leave, the staff will provide information about what to expect over the next few days and what signs to look for that might indicate a complication. Be sure you know the emergency number to call in case problems arise. You may also receive antibiotics to prevent infection and a medication to help minimize the bleeding; avoid alcohol, as it can increase bleeding.
Prior to the abortion, your blood may have been drawn to check for anemia and the Rh factor. If you are Rh-negative and the fetus was Rh-positive, you could form antibodies against the Rh factor in the fetal blood cells, which, in a subsequent pregnancy, can react against a Rh-positive fetus, causing serious harm. To prevent you from forming these antibodies, your provider will give you an injection of a blood derivative, such as RhoGAM, within 72 hours after the abortion.
After a Medication Abortion
Most clinics require a follow-up visit one week after taking the medication, to confirm that the abortion is complete. The clinician will do a physical examination, ultrasound or blood pregnancy test. Sometimes these services can be managed by phone without having to return to the clinic.
With any abortion, avoid putting anything into your vagina (no tampons, no sexual intercourse, and no douching) for five days after the abortion, as the cervix is open and there is a greater chance of an infection during this time.
Bleeding ranges from none at all to a light or moderate flow, which may stop and then start again. Some signs of pregnancy, such as nausea, usually get better in a day or two, while others, including breast tenderness, may take a week or two.
You may also be advised to rest and to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise. Self-care is important, but work, school and family circumstances may make some recommendations unrealistic. In addition, no studies have shown that these activities actually increase the risk of complications after abortion. The best guide is to listen to your body and use common sense.
You may be given a follow-up appointment for two to three weeks after the abortion. At this visit, the clinician will check how you are doing emotionally and physically. Most women feel fine and do not have any problems after an abortion, but it’s also normal to feel tired or to have cramps for several days.
Dealing with Emotions
Emotionally, most women report feeling relief after an abortion, but it is also perfectly normal to have mixed or even negative feelings. The decision to terminate a pregnancy can be sad or stressful. It may be made more upsetting by the stigma against abortion fueled by those who are opposed to abortion rights. These recommended resources provide support to women who have had an abortion as well as their partners, families and friends.
Because you can get pregnant again shortly after an abortion, even before your first period, it’s important to use reliable birth control if you don’t want another pregnancy. For more information, see “Starting Birth Control After an Abortion.”