After a Vacuum Aspiration or Dilation and Evacuation Abortion
After a aspiration abortion (also called an in-clinic or surgical abortion) or a dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion (a kind of abortion done later in the pregnancy), 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 will probably receive antibiotics to prevent infection. You may be given a follow-up appointment for two to three weeks after the abortion.
After a Medication Abortion
If you received your medications from an in-person clinic, you’ll likely be asked to return for a follow-up visit a week or so after you take the medication, to confirm that the abortion is complete. The clinician will do a physical examination, ultrasound or blood pregnancy test. (A blood pregnancy test is important because you can continue to test positive on home pregnancy tests for four to six weeks after an abortion, due to pregnancy hormones that are still in your body.) If you received your medications by mail, from a teleclinic, these services are usually managed by a remote visit.
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. Bleeding after an abortion ranges from none at all to a light or moderate flow, which may stop and then start again. If the cramping or bleeding is bothering you, try using a heating pad, resting, or taking ibuprofen. 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 for the rest of the day. 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.
It’s probably best to avoid putting anything into your vagina (no tampons, no sexual intercourse, and no douching) for a few days after an abortion. Not enough research has been done on the topic, but because the cervix is open, there may be a greater chance of an infection.
Dealing with Emotions
Emotionally, most women report feeling relief after an abortion, but it is also perfectly normal to have mixed or 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.
Most people will have a normal period about 4-6 weeks after an abortion. Because you can get pregnant again 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.”