Surgical abortions, also known as in-clinic procedures, are among the safest medical procedures there are. Not only are surgical abortions safer than removing your tonsils or wisdom teeth, but they are 14 times safer than continuing a pregnancy! At Austin Women’s Health Center, we offer surgical abortions until 18 weeks from your last menstrual period or 16 weeks since conception, and we want you to feel prepared for what to expect when visiting us. In our last blog, we explained how a surgical abortion is performed, how long it takes, and its possible complications and risks. In this blog, we’ll explain what to expect after a surgical abortion, such as bleeding and other common side effects, when your period will return, and when to contact us so we can further assess your care.
What’s Riskier Than Abortion?
If you’re wondering how safe abortion actually is, comparing it to other standard medical procedures and life activities will help put it into perspective! Here are a few things that are statistically riskier than surgical abortion:
- Having your tonsils or wisdom teeth removed
- An injection of penicillin
- The flu
- Using Tylenol, Advil, Aspirin, and other over-the-counter pain medications
- Driving while talking on or looking at your cellphone
- Having a colonoscopy
- Getting struck by lightning
- Crossing the street
- Giving birth
- Cosmetic surgeries and procedures, like Botox injections
The risk of serious complications from a surgical or medical abortion is less than one percent, and the National Abortion Federation (NAF) states that deaths resulting from one of these complications occur in 0.0006% of people—that’s 1 in 160,000. Anti-choice extremists spread a lot of misinformation about abortion, but rest assured that abortion is a safe, common, and normal medical procedure, and you’re in good hands with abortion providers!
What to Expect in the Recovery Room After a Surgical Abortion
In our last blog, we explained that a surgical abortion usually takes only several minutes to perform. But depending on whether you used sedation or not, you’ll spend some time in our recovery room before going home. We want to make sure that your level of bleeding is normal, and that you’re able to safely walk out of our building.
We have reclining chairs, heating pads, blankets, and snacks and drinks to make you feel more comfortable during your recovery. Our medical staff will monitor your health and review aftercare protocols with you as you recover. Friends and/or family are unable to be with you in the recovery room due to COVID-19, but we’re happy to call and let anyone you wish know when you’re ready to leave. How long you’ll spend in recovery depends on your sedation management and other factors, so please ask our clinic staff for any clarification on how long you’ll spend there.
What to Expect at Home After an Abortion
Compared to a medical abortion (the “abortion pill”), a surgical abortion usually causes only minimal bleeding. In fact, many people don’t experience bleeding at all right away, and it’s common not to experience bleeding until several days after the procedure. Generally, with a surgical abortion, you can expect to have normal to heavy period-like bleeding, with the possibility of also passing blood clots, for up to a week. It’s important to manage this bleeding only with the use of pads—not tampons or menstrual cups—because you don’t want to introduce anything into your vagina for at least two weeks in order to prevent infection because your cervix may still be open and dilated during that time.
With a medication-induced abortion, two medications are used to complete the process. The first pill you take at the office stops the growth of the pregnancy, and the second medication taken at home causes the pregnancy to be expelled from your body. Bleeding can both be heavier and last longer with this method. With a medication-induced abortion, bleeding and cramping usually start within 4 hours, but contact our office if you haven’t experienced any bleeding (or light bleeding) in two days. It’s also normal to feel a little sick through out the process, so if you experience vomiting or diarrhea, it isn’t unusual.
After passing the pregnancy, expect to continue to have light to heavy bleeding for up to two weeks, with some experiencing varying degrees of bleeding for up to 6-8 weeks, usually scant amounts or spotting.
Any time you experience bleeding, expect to cramp as well. Cramping can range from mild to intense pain, but most people are able to manage their discomfort with ibuprofen or another pain medication our office can give you. Strenuous activity may increase your level of bleeding, so while most people return to their usual activities in the days following their abortions, be careful and avoid heavy lifting, exercise, or other strenuous movements. You can also expect your period to return between 3-6 weeks.
Bleeding After Abortion and Signs of Complications
Bleeding after an abortion is normal, and we want you to be prepared for what to do for all possible levels of bleeding. How our clinic manages heavy bleeding depends on your particular abortion method and medical history, so call our office anytime if you have any of the following side effects –
At your abortion appointment, our clinic staff will make sure you know what to expect for aftercare protocols during counseling and in the recovery room. This includes familiarizing yourself with the signs and symptoms of possible—but uncommon—complications like excessive bleeding and infection. Fewer than 1% of infections require the use of antibiotics, so it’s unlikely this will affect you. However, if you develop a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or more in the days following your surgical abortion, or if you have severe cramping that medication isn’t helping, contact us immediately as it may indicate an infection.
There is also less than a 1% chance that excessive bleeding requiring further medical or surgical procedures will occur but contact us immediately if you have saturated two thick overnight menstrual pads in two consecutive hours following your surgical abortion either by contacting our clinic directly, or calling the Medical Exchange phone number provided to you at your visit.
Before taking the first pill with the doctor at our clinic, your counselor will thoroughly review what to expect throughout the entire process, including signs and symptoms of possible but uncommon complications. Like a surgical abortion, infections that require the use of antibiotics affect less than 1% of people but contact our office if you have a temperature of 100.4 or more that persists for four or more hours. This may indicate your body is fighting something off, and we want to determine whether you have an infection. Additionally, if you have flu-like symptoms, such as body aches or fatigue, call us immediately so we can determine if you need any follow-up treatment.
Just as with surgical abortion, there is a less than a 1% chance that excessive bleeding requiring further medical or surgical procedures will occur, but contact us immediately if you have saturated two thick overnight menstrual pads in two consecutive hours following your medication abortion either by contacting our clinic directly or calling the Medical Exchange phone number provided to you at your visit.