What To Expect When Receiving Abortion Aftercare

For far too long, abortion was a word that was often whispered. Those who had chosen to terminate a pregnancy kept it to themselves even after the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973. However, with the overturning of Roe on June 24, 2022, advocates for reproductive rights are no longer staying quiet. Instead, they're opting to shout out about abortion and everyone's right to have one if they choose to do so. It's a topic that everyone should be talking about as a way to not just normalize abortion but also bring attention to the fact that it is a form of healthcare.


Of course, conversations about abortion should also include the aftercare that comes with it. Whether you opt for surgical abortion (the in-office procedure) or medical abortion (taking mifepristone and misoprostol at home), aftercare is an extremely important aspect of recovery.

"Caring for oneself after an abortion is very important and begins with understanding what an individual can expect during the procedure, but especially what to expect afterwards," medical director of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC, and a board-certified OB/GYN, Serina Floyd, M.D., tells Popsugar. "Having clear and detailed guidance on what is normal and what is not helps calm fears and reduce anxiety about what someone may be experiencing."


Abortion is a fundamental right. If you or someone you love needs to get an abortion, here's what you can expect afterward.

Bleeding and cramping

Two of the major side effects of getting an abortion, no matter which type of abortion you get, are bleeding and cramping. According to Planned Parenthood, some people don't bleed at all, while others experience bleeding that can last as many as six weeks, with the amount of blood tapering off over time and becoming darker in color. 


Cramping, too, is absolutely normal as your uterus contracts back to its regular size — or, in the case of medical abortions, empties itself of pregnancy tissue and blood and sheds the uterine lining. Doctors often compare these cramps as being not unlike menstrual cramps for the first few days following the abortion. Like the bleeding you experience, these will decrease over time. Over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and Ibuprofen can help with the cramping. However, you shouldn't use aspirin as a remedy for the pain, as aspirin has been known to increase bleeding and you definitely want to keep your bleeding to a healthy minimum, as opposed to exacerbating it. 

Stay away from tampons

If you've ever had a surgical abortion, then you already know they send you home wearing a bulky sanitary pad for the bleeding that's to follow. It can't be stated enough how important it is that you stick to pads during this time and absolutely stay away from tampons for at least two weeks following a surgical abortion.


"When we do a surgical abortion, we use instruments that are small and thin to empty out the uterus and empty out the pregnancy, and we can only put those instruments in if we do a little bit of dilation of the cervix," clinical assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Health Dr. Colleen Denny, M.D. tells Bustle. "The cervix naturally closes by itself in the week or two after the abortion is done, so there's nothing the patients have to do, except wait."

The cervix is usually closed so it can protect the other reproductive organs from bacteria getting inside. What this means is that inserting anything into the vagina while the cervix is still dilated can lead to possible infection. During your recovery, avoid tampons, douching, penises, internal sex toys, and menstrual cups and discs, too — anything that would normally be safe to put in your vagina should be avoided until your doctor gives you the okay. 


Expect to be emotional

Even if you have zero regrets about your abortion, it's natural to feel emotional, especially because of all the pregnancy hormones that were in your body and are now leaving. When someone becomes pregnant, their body produces human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG), and because it's only produced when someone is pregnant, it's also known as the pregnancy hormone. According to Cleveland Clinic, the levels of this hormone increase as the pregnancy progresses. So, for example, if you choose to terminate around the seven- or eight-week mark, your body could have anywhere from 7,650 to 229,000 mL of hCG in your body. After an abortion, those levels will begin to decrease and leave the body. So, if you experience a rollercoaster of emotions, nausea, or symptoms similar to a pregnant person in their first trimester, don't worry — it's just your body getting back on track and it can take a few weeks to do so.


In regard to emotions, it's worth noting that the majority of those who get abortions do not regret them. "Anyone deciding they are not ready to be pregnant or they do not want to undergo the risks of pregnancy and birth, in that moment, that's all the information they have," OB/GYN Leah Torres, M.D. tells Self. "While regret is a possibility, it's very much not the norm. What people normally feel is relief."

That being said, you should still expect a range of emotions because of the drop in hCG levels.

Practice self-care

No matter which abortion you chose, self-care in the days and weeks that follow is paramount. Do whatever it takes to feel cozy, safe, and loved. This also means including someone whom you can rely on to be by your side throughout the entire process, especially during the aftercare. It can feel lonesome sitting around watching movies by yourself, and having someone to emotionally and physically support you is important to your recovery.


"Abortion aftercare is the act of doing something that brings you back to your safety," student midwife and full-spectrum doula Jacinta Wood tells Popsugar. "If you have a specific movie that's your movie, find the thing and have it ready. If you liked a cartoon growing up, find out a way to watch that cartoon."

Be as kind to yourself as possible, don't judge yourself, keep a bestie at your side, and remind yourself that this abortion was your choice and your right. 

Know when to call your doctor

According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, of the one million abortions performed every year in the U.S., only 2% result in complications. While that figure is extremely low, it's still proof that things can go wrong — that's where your due diligence comes into play.


If you pass blood clots that are "bigger than a lemon," according to Planned Parenthood, soak through two or more pads an hour with blood, experience severe pain that surpasses that of general menstrual cramps, or have a fever of 101° F or higher, it's imperative that you contact your doctor immediately. These symptoms could be signs of an infection that can easily be treated with an antibiotic.

As much as the U.S. Supreme Court may try to squash reproductive rights, that won't stop people from getting abortions. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to obtain one, there are resources and networks out there to help you, even if you live in a state where abortion is now illegal. Planned Parenthood, in particular, will do whatever it takes to make sure everyone who needs an abortion can get a safe one in a judgment-free setting.