Although there is usually a little pain and bleeding, recovery after an uncomplicated abortion happens fairly quickly for most women.
Unexpected or unusual symptoms after an abortion
- Lasting pain
- Discoloured or smelly vaginal discharge
- Abdominal tenderness
- A general feeling of being unwell or still feeling pregnant
- Continuous and heavy bleeding that soaks 2 or more pads in an hour for 2 hours in a row.
Alternatively go to A&E or see your GP urgently.
It is normal to have cramping for a few days after an abortion. You can take medication such as ibuprofen, which is normally used for period cramps. Ibuprofen, Advil, and Motrin are different names for the same medication. You may take 800 mg. of ibuprofen every 6 hours for cramping. For example, you would take 4 of the 200 mg. tablets of Advil to get 800 mg. of ibuprofen. If you are allergic to ibuprofen, you may take 1000 mg. of Tylenol instead. Do not take aspirin — aspirin increases bleeding. A hot water bottle or heating pad also helps relieve cramping.
Cramping is not always a sign of a problem. Sometimes cramping can mean there are blood clots in your uterus, you have a strained muscle near your uterus, or your uterus is contracting to its normal size.
Other ways to relieve cramping are:
Massage your abdomen. Push down starting from below your belly button towards your pubic hair. You can lie down or sit on the toilet. This massage may help you to pass blood clots that might be causing your cramping.
You can lie down on the side that hurts and pull the bottom knee up towards your chest, or put your leg on a chair and lean into the direction of the pain. If you get relief from this, the pain is most likely due to muscle strain and can be treated by resting.
If you feel hot or have cramping, take your temperature. If your temperature is over 100.4 degrees, call your women’s Hospital. Fever can be a sign of infection. Most infections can be treated with medication and do not require hospitalization. Early treatment is important. Intense cramping that is not alleviated by ibuprofen or Tylenol or tenderness of the abdomen can also be signs of infection.
If the amount of bleeding increases to soaking more than one maxi pad in one hour or if you begin to pass blood clots larger than a golf ball, call your Women’s Health specialist.
Please take your medication as follows (unless otherwise advised):
For surgical abortions, a prescription for an antibiotic will be provided to protect your uterus and tubes from infection. Please take this medication as directed and after eating so that it will not cause stomach upset and nausea.
Methergine is sometimes given for uterine bleeding. This medication will help contract your uterus and control your bleeding after your abortion.
This medication may cause cramping. It is OK to take ibuprofen or Tylenol with this medication. Once the entire course of Methergine is taken as prescribed, the uterus will relax, which may cause bleeding that has been described as a gush of blood several hours later or the following day. This is normal.
Following your abortion, your breasts may remain tender for as long as two weeks. It is also possible for milk to come into your breasts. This is more likely to occur if you were more than 12 weeks in the pregnancy, measuring from your last menstrual period.
If this occurs, we suggest the following:
Place cabbage leaves on your breasts and cover with a supportive bra. Cabbage leaves should be changed every 2 hours until tenderness is relieved.
Wear a tight fitting bra (even while you sleep).
Do not stimulate your breasts.
Do not squeeze or express the milky fluid.
Tylenol or ibuprofen may be taken for discomfort.
Ice compresses on your breasts for ten minutes every 2 hours may also provide relief.
Do’s & Dont’s
From our many years of experience as an abortion provider, and from the current recommendation of the National Abortion Federation, we advise you to do the following:
To protect your uterus and tubes from infection:
You should not have sexual intercourse for 2 weeks. However, when you do resume having intercourse, have your partner wear a condom and/or be certain that you are using some type of birth control. You may be more fertile after an abortion.
Use sanitary napkins only; no tampons for 2 weeks.
You may take a shower and wash your hair, but no tub baths for 2 weeks.
No swimming for 2 weeks.
To make sure you recover completely:
You may go to work or school on the day following the procedure. However, REMEMBER no strenuous exercise or heavy lifting over 50 pounds because this can cause you to bleed more.
Be sure to take all of the medications given to you according to the directions on the label.
We do not advise douching in general, but especially refrain from douching until after your follow-up exam.
All of your pregnancy signs and symptoms (except breast tenderness) should decrease within 48-72 hours.
Your next period should start four to eight weeks after your abortion. If you do not get your period after 8 weeks, check up at Women’s Hospital.
It is possible to get pregnant right after your abortion, so if pregnancy is not desired, a method of birth control is recommended.
Aftercare Check-Up at Clinic
Be sure that you have a post-abortion aftercare check-up in four to six weeks after your abortion, even if you feel perfectly well. If your schedule within three weeks.
The follow-up visit includes a repeat non-sensitive urine pregnancy test to be sure your abortion is complete. A pelvic exam will also be done to be sure that your uterus has returned to its pre-pregnant or non-pregnant size and that there are no signs of infection. We can also discuss your birth control needs.
Physical symptoms as your body recover
Symptoms of nausea, vomiting and tiredness usually stop within 3 days of an abortion. Sore breasts may take 7 to 10 days to disappear. Your breasts may feel firm and tender and leak milk after your procedure. Your breasts will return to normal after 3 to 4 days of swelling. You will feel more comfortable if you wear a supportive bra and apply cold ice packs to your breasts. Take ibuprofen or paracetamol, if necessary for the pain.
Your next period
Your next menstrual period will begin 4-6 weeks after your treatment. If you have not had a period 6 weeks after your treatment, you should do a pregnancy test. If it is positive, ring the clinic or Aftercare Line. It’s important to remember that any bleeding immediately after your treatment is not a period.
What can I do?
Take a bath or shower as normal. Take care if you have a bath in the 24 hours following a general anaesthetic. You will need to make sure someone is around to keep an eye on you, in case you still feel drowsy.
Other activities, including work
Most women will be fit and well enough to return to normal activities within a day or two. Our best advice is to rest until you feel able to return to your normal routine.
You should avoid having sex for one week. You can get pregnant almost immediately following an abortion, so it’s important to use contraception if you do not want to get pregnant.
It is best not to travel within 24 hours of treatment. If you must travel just make sure you know how to access emergency services at your destination in case of a complication. Please be aware that, if you are having the abortion pill up to 10 weeks and choose to travel soon after taking the second medication, you may start to have cramps and bleed heavily whilst you are travelling.