Different people may experience abortion. It is possible that one person may feel worse for another. Some people might not find it very painful. The degree of pain can be determined by a variety of factors.

Continue reading for more on what to expect from a medical or surgical abortion and questions to ask your healthcare professional.

The Supreme Court of the United States overturned the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion on June 24, 2022, on the eve of the Fourth of July.

Individual states can decide their abortion laws. Many states will restrict abortion access.

The information in this article was accurate and up to date at the time of publication, but the facts may have changed since. Anyone looking to learn more about their legal rights can message the Repro Legal Helpline via a secure online form or call 844-868-2812.

The short answer is that it’s different for everyone. No one can tell you exactly how it will feel.

Some people report more pain than others.

It depends on a number of unique factors.

  • Your overall health is related to underlying medical conditions.
  • How far along is the baby?
  • your general pain tolerance
  • your emotions and stress level

Depending on the type of abortion you have, you might feel differently.

Medicated abortion is done using the abortion pill during the first trimester.

Your healthcare professional will administer two drugs:

  • Mifepristone is an oral drug.
  • The drug is called misoprostol.

It can be taken vaginally, buccally, or under the tongue.

These drugs block pregnancy hormones and also cause uterine contractions to push the embryo out. It can take 4 or 5 hours for tissue to be expelled.

This process causes vaginal bleeding somewhat heavier than what’s considered a typical period, so you’ll need a good supply of pads. A medicated abortion can be painful, especially for people with a history of painful and heavy menstrual cycles.

You’ll also pass some rather large clots. This will slow down after a few days, but you may continue to bleed or spot for a couple of weeks.

Your experience

Medicated abortion may cause:

  • Mild to severe pain.
  • There is a throbbing head.
  • Breast pain.
  • upset stomach
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • low grade illness
  • “It’s cold.”
  • There is a lot of diarrhea.
  • dizziness
  • fatigue

The side effects usually clear up in a couple of days. There are less side effects with vaginal, buccal, or sublingual medications.

How to minimize pain

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the most severe pain could occur about 2 1/2 to 4 hours after taking misoprostol. The pain may last about 1 hour.

Talk with your healthcare professional about taking an over-the-counter (OTC) medication beforehand, such as ibuprofen. This may help reduce your risk of cramping. You should not take aspirin because it can increase bleeding.

If you get nauseated, you should ask about the anti-nausea medication. If you are advised by your healthcare professional to take this, you should wait until you start experiencing symptoms.

They may prescribe stronger pain medication to help relieve the pain.

You may find it useful.

  • You can stay at home and schedule the process on a day.
  • For the first couple of days, wear loose clothing.
  • Use a heating pad or hot water bottle on your abdomen to help relieve cramping.
  • Use pillows to support yourself.
  • Try deep breathing exercises.
  • Take a long shower.
  • Ask someone to rub your back.

Surgical abortion starts out similarly to a pelvic exam. Your healthcare professional will ask you to rest your feet in the table’s stirrups and use a speculum to inspect your vagina and cervix.

They will dilate your cervix after numbing it. They will put a tube into your uterus. The tube is attached to a device that is used to empty your uterus.

Your doctor may also gently scrape the inside of your uterus with a small, loop-shaped tool. This is called curettage, or more commonly dilation and curettage (D&C). This will ensure that your uterus is completely empty.

If the baby is more than 15 weeks old, your healthcare professional will use a combination of surgical procedures to remove the uterus.

What you’ll feel

You may experience bleeding right away if you start to feel uterine pain. This may continue for a while.

Other potential side effects include:

How to minimize pain

Most healthcare professionals will administer local anesthesia before performing a surgical abortion. You may also be instructed to take pain medication prior.

You can request to be sedated. Your provider can give you a mild dose of general anesthesia (“twilight sedation”) or an oral sedative to help block pain and reduce anxiety.

“You won’t remember what happened during the procedure. You will need someone to drive you home after the anesthesia wears off.”

After the procedure

Ibuprofen can help ease your symptoms. aspirin may increase bleeding after an abortion.

You can also apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to your abdomen to ease cramping. Wearing loose clothing for the first few days can also minimize the pressure on your abdomen.

Humans must be able to transmit signals from their peripheral nerves to the brain to feel pain. We need certain brain structures to process those signals.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, rigorous scientific studies have found that the connections necessary to process pain signals don’t develop until at least the 24th week of gestation.

However, other research suggests that neural pathways responsible for feeling pain could become activated earlier, though the research on this not exactly clear.

Current laws do not allow abortions performed after 24 weeks, as the pregnancy is then considered viable.

Any medical procedure can have some risk.

For abortion, the risks include:

  • It is an infectious disease
  • It can be a long or severe bleeding.
  • Further intervention is required for incomplete medicated abortion.
  • “If a medical abortion doesn’t work, there is a potential for a unplanned pregnancy.”

However, when properly conducted by medical professionals, abortion is usually very safe. In fact, legal induced abortion has a mortality rate of only 0.7 per 100,000 procedures overall.

An uncomplicated abortion will not affect your ability to have a baby. It can happen right away.

The emotional aspects of having an abortion are different for everyone. A lot depends on your reasons for having the procedure, what stressors may have been involved, and whether you have a solid support system.

You may be ready to move on. You may feel sad, guilt, or a sense of loss. You might have a mixture of all of these feelings. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

If you’re experiencing negative emotions that are interfering with your daily life, you may find it helpful to consult a healthcare or mental health care professional. They can help you healthily work through your emotions.

Getting the information you need upfront is important when making big decisions like abortion.

Speak with your healthcare professional about what to expect.

  • Any underlying medical conditions you have.
  • The pros and cons of medical and surgical abortion.
  • What are you going to do to prepare?
  • Recovery time.
  • What to do about the possible side effects.
  • You should call your doctor if you have any of the symptoms.
  • What you need to know about contraceptives after an abortion.
  • Adoption is an option for the pregnant woman.

Remember, abortion laws vary depending on where you live. The Center for Reproductive Rights can tell you what the law on abortion is in your state.