Post-abortion care

It is very important that you follow aftercare instructions and take any prescriptions you have been given by your healthcare provider

Following an abortion, you will receive instructions for aftercare. It is very important that you follow these instructions and take any prescriptions you have been given by your healthcare provider. In order to reduce the risk of infection, you may be instructed to avoid:

  • Having vaginal intercourse for a period of time
  • Using tampons or menstrual cups (use pads instead)
  • Taking baths
  • Douching
  • Swimming
  • Inserting anything inside your vagina – including fingers or herbs or soaps

Your provider will give you a 24-hour telephone number to call if you become concerned about your condition. If you develop any of the following symptoms, you will need to contact your abortion provider:

  • Severe cramps
  • Chills, or fever of 37.5 degrees or more
  • Bleeding that is heavier than the heaviest day of your normal menstrual period, or that soaks through more than two maxi-pads an hour for more than two hours
  • Bad-smelling discharge from your vagina
  • Continuing symptoms of pregnancy

Follow-up exam

The provider will also give you an appointment or referral for a follow up exam within 2 weeks of a medical abortion and will suggest a follow-up visit within 2 to 4 weeks of an aspiration (surgical) abortion to confirm that you have not developed any complications. In the case of a medical abortion, the provider also confirms that the abortion is complete. Even if you feel fine, you should go to your post-abortion appointment.

Some may choose to go to their regular family doctor or health practitioner for their follow-up exam. You may want to determine whether your doctor will support your choice, because it is important that you tell them that you had an abortion. You should also let the provider who provided your abortion know that you plan to see your own doctor for the follow-up exam.

Taking care of yourself

You’ve made this important decision for yourself and now it is time to take care of yourself! The below resources and activities may help you work through any concerns you might be having after an abortion. However, if this information does not fit your personal needs, we recommend that you seek the help of a trained, unbiased counsellor who can help you work through your own feelings.

You may feel physically fine very shortly after an abortion. Some people, however, may be concerned about whether there were any physical complications as a result of their abortion, or whether they will be able to get pregnant when they want to in the future. During a post-abortion check-up (about two weeks after an abortion), a doctor or other clinician can alleviate anxieties of this sort and can answer any questions that you may not have thought to ask at the time of your abortion. You might feel a sense of relief and reassurance after your post-abortion check-up and most abortion providers encourage this check-up and offer it free of charge.

You might feel like you are ready to put the unintended pregnancy and the abortion behind you and move on with your life, but some people feel the need to talk about the experience and their feelings about it with someone other than their abortion provider. Talking with a caring and supportive person can be both comforting and useful. You may choose a friend, partner, counsellor, family member, clergy, or someone else who gives positive support, and does not judge the choice that you made.

Writing down your thoughts can help you review the options you have, can help you make sense of the pregnancy and other life issues like relationships, job security, finances, housing and even your family and friends.  You may find that separating all the issues involved in your decision, and writing them down or saying them out loud to yourself or a friend helps you feel less overwhelmed and better able to cope as you work through your feelings.

Your decision to have an abortion could be related to your hopes and plans for your future. Envisioning what you want your life to be like and thinking about how you want to live now in order to realise the future you most desire can help when you are facing difficulty in making a decision. By projecting yourself into the future, you can direct yourself toward a more stable and secure emotional health.

Most people who have abortions believe that they made the best decision they could at the time, given their resources, their obligations, and their values. You might find it helpful to repeat positive and affirming statements to yourself at times when you feel sad or doubtful or worried. A mantra could be: “I am at peace and I feel happy that I had the access needed to make an informed decision for myself.” Some people have other kinds of mantras, or poetic lines, or simple one-worded statements as simple as “Peace” that may give them comfort and reduce anxiety when recited.

Most people return to their usual activities and interests very shortly after an abortion. If you are finding it difficult to do that you may take up a new or creative activity, such as writing poetry, painting, or keeping a journal. You may find that a creative outlet can help you work through your feelings.

Some people find that performing a ritual or some kind of “letting-go” ceremony helps them to complete the resolution of their feelings. You could try the following:

  • lighting a candle and meditating
  • writing down words or symbols of the loss involved and then burying or burning the paper
  • offering a prayer to God, Nature, the Divine Truth, or Inner Spirit, as is appropriate for the person themself

Useful resources

More useful resources on post-abortion self-care: