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Medical Abortion Care - Topic Overview

Care after a medical abortion

Carefully follow all of your doctor's instructions and review what-to-expect information after a medical abortion.

Follow these instructions:

  • Most women can return to normal activities in 1 to 2 days after the uterus has cleared. Avoid strenuous exercise for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Do not have sexual intercourse for 1 to 2 weeks or as advised by your doctor.
  • Be sure to use birth control when you start having sex again. And use condoms to prevent infection. For more information, see the topic Birth Control.
  • Do not rinse the vagina with fluids (douche). This could increase your risk of infections that can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease.

Normal symptoms that most women will experience after a medical abortion include:

  • Bleeding or spotting for up to 14 days. Bleeding may last longer for pregnancies of more than 7 weeks.
  • Cramping for the first 2 weeks. Some women may have cramping (like menstrual cramps) for as long as 6 weeks.
  • Emotional reactions for 2 to 3 weeks, often influenced by changes in pregnancy hormones. It's normal to feel one or more emotions such as relief, guilt, sadness, and/or grief.

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 sanitary pads in an hour, for 2 hours in a row.
    • Bleeding heavily for 12 hours in a row.
  • 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 hours
  • Sudden belly swelling or rapid heart rate
  • Vaginal discharge that has increased in amount or smells bad
  • Pain, swelling, or redness in the genital area
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