Abortion is a serious medical procedure that affects a woman physically and mentally. Learning about the side effects, risks, and recovery of abortion before the procedure is essential in protecting your health.

Medical Abortion

A medical abortion uses two drugs to terminate a pregnancy. The first drug, mifepristone, blocks your reproductive system from naturally utilizing the hormone progesterone that your body creates. This causes the embryo or fetus to detach from the wall of the uterus. The second drug, misoprostol, is then taken within 48 hours to force the uterus to contract, which squeezes out the pregnancy.

The drugs used in the medical abortion process have common, expected side effects, including:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

Additionally, the risks of medical abortion can include the following:

  • Incomplete abortion, which may need to be followed by surgical abortion
  • An ongoing pregnancy if the procedure doesn’t work
  • Heavy and prolonged bleeding
  • Infection
  • Fever

Surgical Abortion

A surgical abortion is performed in a clinical setting by an abortion provider. As in a pap smear, the provider inserts a speculum into the woman’s vagina. They then use a series of rods at increasing diameters to dilate the cervix (open the uterus). Suction is then used to remove the pregnancy from the uterus. In pregnancies that are further developed, additional tools may be used to scrape or break apart the pregnancy for easier removal.

After a surgical abortion, it is common for a woman to have light bleeding and mild cramping.

Women experiencing a surgical abortion may also be at risk for the following:

  • Damage to the cervix (opening of the uterus)
  • Uterine perforation (when a hole is poked through the uterus with a surgical tool)
  • Uterine infection
  • Uterine bleeding
  • Uterine scar tissue that may cause period changes and infertility 

Emergency Care

Following an abortion, a woman must monitor herself for signs and symptoms of complications. She should reach out to her provider if she experiences any of the following:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Heavy bleeding (soaking through more than 2 pads per hour)
  • Severe cramping
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge

Find Care

If you are considering abortion as an outcome of your pregnancy, start with a pregnancy test, ultrasound, and STI testing at the Pregnancy Resource Center. All our services are free and confidential. Make an appointment today.

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