Austin Women's Health Center Blog&Inspiration

Surgical Abortion Q&A: Will it hurt?

September 23, 2020
is surgical abortion painful

One of the most common questions we get at the office about surgical abortion is “Will it hurt?” or “Will I feel pain?” Well, just to let you know –You are not alone! Believe me when I say that everyone is wondering if surgical abortion is painful. Our friends at the Abortion Care Network have written a great article that outlines some of the most common medications used in pain management.

At AWHC we offer pain-relieving and anxiety-reducing drugs to make you as comfortable as possible.  We encourage you to consider these medication options, and we’ll help you choose the right ones for you.

What medications are used during a surgical abortion?  

At AWHC we use a numbing medication called Lidocaine that helps to relax the cervix and reduce pain.  With this kind of anesthetic, you are fully awake, and recover quickly.  We also offer the following, at no extra charge:

  • Ibuprofen – a prescription dose of an anti-inflammatory pain reliever
  • Valium  – a mild anti-anxiety medication taken orally

For an additional fee you may receive:

  • Fentanyl is given through an IV – a narcotic pain reliever that will help to lessen discomfort during the procedure. When used with Versed, the combination is most commonly referred to as twilight or conscious sedation.

We will give you these medications during your visit, so please do not take medication for pain or anxiety at home on the day of your appointment.  If you are on a prescription medication that you take daily for pain or anxiety, please check with us to make sure it is okay to take it before your visit.

While this is just one aspect of what happens during a surgical abortion, we want your abortion experience to be as positive and pain-free as possible.  We encourage you to call the office and have your concerns addressed. You can call us at 512-443-2888 to speak with a friendly representative and ask those stress-inducing questions that are on your mind.

From the Abortion Care Network:

“Is Surgical Abortion Painful?”…questions and answers about pain with surgical abortion

If you’re wondering and worrying about how painful your abortion will be, you’re not alone.  Most women are concerned about this.  Everyone is different; some women find it only slightly uncomfortable, and others do experience it as painful.   There are some things that can help.

A vacuum aspiration abortion usually takes about five minutes. You may experience feelings such as pressure, cramping, and a tugging sensation.

Some women decide to have general anesthesia (being “knocked out”) so they won’t feel anything.(*)  But drugs aren’t the only answer to pain – it’s also helpful to understand what pain is and what affects our experience of it.  We would like to share some information with you about how pain works and what you can do to help control it and cope with it.

What is pain?

Have you ever said “ouch!” and then realized that whatever you just felt didn’t actually hurt – you just reacted as if it did?  Sometimes, even if a sensation isn’t especially painful in itself, our brain interprets it that way.

This doesn’t mean that pain is “all in your head” – it means that it’s partly in your head.  Our body, mind, and emotions all contribute.  Research has shown that depression, anxiety, and guilt can all increase our experience of pain – while a positive emotional state, like being confident and relaxed, can result in experiencing less pain.

Ironically, fear of pain actually increases the degree of pain we feel.  When you’re afraid something will hurt, your muscles tense, your heart begins to race, and you may begin to tell yourself things like, “I can’t relax, this is really going to hurt, I can’t handle this.”   Then the next thing you know, you can’t relax and every sensation actually does become more painful.

In other words, when it comes to pain, the more you fear it the more you feel it.  Fear and negative thoughts can turn “uncomfortable” into “painful,” while confidence and positive thoughts can turn “painful” into “tolerable.”  In one study of several different drug combinations, women who reported feeling relaxed and confident before their abortion reported less pain regardless of what drugs they received.  

 What else can help during a surgical abortion?

  • Create a positive attitude.  Be kind to yourself.   Find your inner strength and courage.  Believe in yourself and your ability to make the right decision about your pregnancy.  Talk to people who will support and encourage you.  Don’t be around people who will make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Avoid negative self-talk.  Replace thoughts like “I’m so scared,” and “I’ll never get over this,” with positive messages like, “I’m strong, I’m brave,” “I know this a good decision,” and “I can handle this.”
  • Relax.  If you know any relaxation techniques, such as meditation, visualization, or controlled breathing, practice them before your appointment.  Be ready to use these tools to help yourself cope during your abortion procedure.
  • Bring a support person.  If you plan to bring someone with you, make sure you choose someone who understands what you are going through.  In addition, someone from our staff will be with you for support.
  • Distract yourself.  Sometimes a distraction, such as chatting or listening to music, is helpful.  We offer a headset with relaxing music to listen to during the procedure.
  • Smell something nice.  Studies have shown that pleasant smells help to reduce the perception of pain, especially for women.  You may want to consider putting a drop of a favorite fragrance on a cotton ball and breathing in the scent during the procedure. (Prepare the cotton ball ahead of time and bring it in a zip-lock bag.)

Learn more about surgical abortion on our website or book an appointment with us.

*Because of the added risk and expense, general anesthesia is not an option we offer at Austin Women’s Health Center (AWHC).