Abortion - Before, During, and After an Abortion: When to Call a Doctor
If you think you may be pregnant, see a doctor for a
pregnancy test, examination, and
pregnancy counseling as soon as possible. If you are
considering ending the pregnancy, this is an important time for learning as
much as you can about your options. The earlier you take measures to end a
pregnancy, the more medical choices you are likely to have and the less your
risk of complications will be.
Who to see
Surgical abortions are minor surgeries
that require a health professional with specialized training. If a medical
abortion is not successful, a surgical abortion must be done as follow-up. This
is necessary to prevent infection and blood loss and to end the pregnancy,
because medical abortion medicines cause birth defects. The following health
professionals can perform abortions:
Some health professionals offer medical abortion only and
recommend another health professional if a
vacuum aspiration becomes necessary. Other health
professionals offer medical abortion and manual vacuum extraction (MVA) if
needed. MVA is a simple and effective procedure. Fewer health
professionals offer medical, MVA, and surgical abortion services.
Your health professional will give you information
about what to expect after an abortion. Normal symptoms
that most women experience include:
- Irregular bleeding or spotting for as long as
the first 3 weeks.
- Cramping for the first 2 weeks. Some women have
cramping (like menstrual cramps) for as long as 6
- Emotional reactions for 2 to 3 weeks.
The hospital or surgery center may send you instructions on
how to get ready for your surgery. Or a nurse may call you with instructions
before your surgery.
Right after surgery, you will be taken to a
recovery area where nurses will care for and observe you. You will probably
stay in the recovery area for a period of time and then you will go home. In
addition to any special instructions from your doctor, your nurse will explain
information to help you in your recovery. You will go home with a page of care
instructions including who to contact if a problem arises.
Signs of complications
Less than 1 out of 100 women
who have an abortion have serious problems afterward.2
Call your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms after an abortion:
- Severe bleeding. Both medical and surgical
abortions usually cause bleeding that is different from a normal menstrual
period. Severe bleeding can mean:
- Passing clots that are bigger than a
golf ball, lasting 2 or more hours.
- Soaking more than 2 large pads
in an hour, for 2 hours in a row.
- Bleeding heavily for 12 hours in
- Signs of infection in your whole body, such as
headache, muscle aches, dizziness, or a general feeling of illness. Severe
infection is possible without fever.
- Severe pain in the belly
that is not relieved by pain medicine, rest, or heat
- Hot flushes or a fever of
100.4°F (38°C) or higher that
lasts longer than 4 hours
- Vomiting lasting more than 4 to 6
- Sudden belly swelling or rapid heart
- Vaginal discharge that has increased in amount or smells
- Pain, swelling, or redness in the genital area
Call your doctor for an appointment if you have had any of these symptoms after a recent
- Bleeding (not spotting) for longer than 2
- New, unexplained symptoms that may be caused by medicines
used in your treatment
- No menstrual period within 6 weeks after the
- Signs and symptoms of
depression. Hormonal changes after a pregnancy can
cause depression that requires treatment.