By Sneha Nair

Abortions are common. Abortions are normal. Abortion are lifesaving.
Despite this, moral and legal barriers continue to be a hindrance in access. When looking up abortion information online, it’s important to know which sources to trust. A study from 2010 highlighted how 35% of sexual health websites contained invalid information, mostly on abortions. {1}

Before we dive into what happens to the body after a medical abortion aka abortion with pills, let’s look into some facts about the road before that.

Delayed Menstrual Cycle. Pregnancy Tests & Detecting Early Symptoms

The most common and widely known symptom of pregnancy is a missed menstrual cycle. If you’ve had unprotected sex and you’re late by a few days (this is assuming that you’re on a cycle that tends to be regular, an at-home pregnancy test would be a good place to start. These tests are available at your local pharmacy or health centre. Depending on when you last ovulated, for most people, the test will show positive within a week of the first day of your missed period. This should help determine how far along you are, since your last period.

Early pregnancy symptoms vary from person to person. But generally speaking, common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Heachache
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen, tender breasts
  • Bloating
  • Increased urination
  • Appetite changes

Side note: Light spotting is also noticed in early pregnancy symptoms. It’s natural to mistake it for a menstrual period. If the menstrual flow seems unusual for the first day of the menstrual cycle, consider taking an at-home pregnancy test to be sure.

What Should I Expect After?

Abortions with pills is one of the safest and most effective medical procedures, and also the preferred method of termination for unintended pregnancies under 11 weeks. The medical abortion protocol suggested a combination of misoprostol and mifepristone or only misoprostal. These are the names of the abortion pills. To know more to use both methods, read through this to better understand how these pills work and what to expect. Unintended pregnancies over 11 weeks requires a different dosage of the abortion pills and/or a diferent method of termination. Seek advice from a trained medical provider trained to support abortions over 11 weeks.

Assuming that the unintended pregnancy is under 11 weeks and the right protocols have been followed, you may or may not experience bleeding. Both are normal. For some, the cramping is severe while some relate it “similar to menstrual cramps. Note that cramping and bleeding are considered a sign of the abortion pills working.

But keep a track.

Once the pregnancy passes, the bleeding should reduce. If you find yourself running through menstrual pads at an alarming rate, play safe and get the advice of the medical provider.

Here’s a visual cue on how much bleeding is too much bleeding. If you find yourself “flooding” and feeling weaker, get immediate help to be on the safer side.

Image credit: https://www.bpas.org/abortion-care/abortion-aftercare/

If the bleeding is under control and manageable, consider taking medication for the cramping. An over the counter pain relieving medication should help ease the pain.

Let’s talk about the emotional aspect of the post abortion journey. This blog should help breakdown the fact that there is no one way of feeling after an abortion. Some feel relieved and happy while some feel sad, all feelings are valid and understandable. If you find yourself in need of some outside help, separate from friends and family, consider post-abortion councelling. It should help in aligning your emotions and help you move on.

You’ll know your abortion is complete when the bleeding reduces considerably. The possible nausea, fever, cramping should also have reduced within the week of taking the pills.

A general feeling of tiredness might still linger depending on how you bled. If possible, consider taking a few days off and resting till you start feeling more energetic.

Your menstrual cycle should return in about four to six weeks after the medical abortion.

Side note: It’s possible to get a positive pregnancy test even two weeks after a successful medical abortion. This is because some pregnancy hormones might still be inside your body. If you continue feeling symptoms as stated above, visit a doctor.

Possible complications

It’s only natural to feel anxious about what feels right and what should be considered a red flag during the medical abortion process. In most cases, a medical abortion is nothing to worry about. But being informed will only help you feel more confident about your decision.

Here’s what you need to look out for after a medical abortion -

  • “Flooding” or heavy bleeding (Refer to image above for visual cue) - if you’re fully soaking through 2 menstruals pad in an hour
  • A fever that lasts over a day
  • Worsening cramps - a severe pain in your pelvic region that doesn’t seem to reduce
  • If you still continue to feel the above stated symptoms of pregnancy
  • If you haven’t gotten your period post 8 weeks from abortion

Connect with a certified medical provider if you experience any of these symptoms. You may need another dosage of the pills or a surgical abortion instead. To find out more about your country’s abortion laws alongside information and resources on where you could seek additional support, visit our country profile section.

Remember that you’ve done what’s best for you, your health and your wellbeing. And that’s what matters.

Author’s bio
Sneha Nair is the Global Communications Officer at howtouseabortionpill.org. She lives in Mumbai with her four house plants.