While preparing for an abortion with pills, it’s natural to be concerned about what to expect: is an abortion with pills painful? How much pain is normal? How long should I expect to be in discomfort, and what can I do to make it better? These questions are common and- when addressed directly and honestly- equip users to better plan for and support themselves through the abortion experience.
Is An Abortion With Pills Painful?
During an abortion with pills, there will be pain from cramping. This pain is normal and is a sign that the abortion medication is working. Pain from an abortion with pills is similar to menstrual cramping, though it can be more intense for some women.
There are two pills used for an abortion with pills: mifepristone and misoprostol. You can have an abortion by using the two pills in combination together, or by using misoprostol alone. While mifepristone may cause some light side effects, like dizziness or spotting, it is not associated with pain. Misoprostol, on the other hand, will cause discomfort.
Misoprostol triggers the uterus, also known as the womb, to contract. These contractions push out the contents of the uterus and end the pregnancy. All uterine contractions- whether from menstrual periods, abortion, or birth labor- can be painful. The pain is a sign that muscles deep inside the body are hard at work.
Cramping should begin soon after using misoprostol and will be accompanied by bleeding. The heaviest cramping will most likely occur 4-8 hours after using misoprostol, though each body is different and this timeline may vary. Once the pregnancy has been expelled, cramping will go away on its own1.
How Can I Reduce Pain And Discomfort From Cramping?
Just like menstrual cramps, there are key strategies you can use to reduce pain and discomfort during an abortion with pills.
It is widely suggested that women use ibuprofen or a similar painkiller during the abortion process. You can buy ibuprofen 200 mg strength over the counter (without a prescription) and use 3-4 pills (200 mg each) every 6-8 hours. If you need something extra for pain relief, you can also use 2 pills of Tylenol (325 mg) every 6-8 hours.
In addition to over-the-counter medication, consider applying a heating pad or hot water bottle to your abdomen after using misoprostol. Heat can help soothe pain from cramping- just be sure not to burn yourself2.
Aside from pain medication and heat, you can help manage pain and discomfort by ensuring that you are in a comfortable space where you feel safe and supported. Stress and anxiety may amplify your experience of pain, so try to prepare ahead of time to create a calming environment. Listening to music or watching a movie are two ways to keep the mind occupied and the body relaxed. You may also consider asking a friend to stay with you during the abortion process so that you have someone nearby for comfort. You can read more about preparing ahead of time for an abortion here.
How Much Pain Is Normal?
Pain during an abortion with pills is difficult to measure. For starters, every person has a different level of pain tolerance. What may be incredibly difficult for one person to cope with may be completely tolerable for another.
Additionally, there is a wide range of what’s considered “normal” during regular menstrual cramping. Some women may have severe menstrual cramps every month, which may not feel too different from an abortion with pills. Others have virtually no cramping, which means that an abortion with pills can feel very new and intense.
The important thing to keep in mind is that pain from cramping should only last a few hours before gradually reducing on its own. There should also be things that you can do to help reduce the pain- like the pain medication or heat therapy mentioned above.
If you notice that you have extreme pain that does not get better even after taking ibuprofen, seek medical help. Unresolved pain that cannot be relieved with time or intervention may signify a pregnancy complication, and medical help is required.
If you are looking to learn more about safe medical abortion, you can visit our website or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on social media: we’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
Claire is a teacher, reproductive rights advocate, and the manager of https://www.howtouseabortionpill.org/
- 1 Fiala, Cameron, Carmo-Bombas, Gemezell-Danielsson, Parachini, Shojai, Sitruk-Ware (2012) Early Medical Abortion - A Practical Guide For Healthcare Professionals. Editions de Santé, 2012
- 2 Pain management for medical abortion up to 13 weeks gestation. Ipas. https://www.ipas.org/clinical-updates/pain-management/ma-before-13-weeks