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Surgical Abortion Care - Topic Overview

Care before a surgical abortion

Before a surgical abortion, your doctor will:

  • Evaluate your past health, including any medicines you are taking.
  • Do a physical exam, including a pelvic examination, to evaluate your health, how long you have been pregnant, and the location and health of the embryo or fetus.
  • Perform an ultrasound to confirm how far along and where the pregnancy is. Not all doctors choose to do this step.
  • Discuss your decision to have an abortion and your feelings about the decision.
  • Discuss your plans for future pregnancies and birth control use.
  • Explain the procedure, possible problems, and when to call your doctor.

Care immediately after a surgical abortion

After a surgical abortion procedure, your doctor will check to make sure:

Medicines that may be given after a surgical abortion include:

  • Antibiotics, to prevent infection.
  • Medicines that cause uterine contractions (uterotonic), to empty the uterus completely and reduce bleeding.
  • Rh immunoglobulin, which is given to all women who have Rh-negative blood type to prevent Rh sensitization after the procedure.
  • Pain medicine, for cramping pain caused by uterine contractions.
  • Medicine to treat nausea or vomiting.

Care at home after a surgical abortion

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

  • Most women can return to normal activities in 1 to 2 days after the procedure. Avoid strenuous exercise for about 1 week.
  • Do not have sexual intercourse for at least 1 week, or longer, as advised by your doctor.
  • When you start having intercourse again, use birth control, 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 surgical abortion include:

  • Irregular bleeding or spotting for the first 2 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.
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