After an abortion procedure, individuals should be encouraged to take care of their physical and emotional health. This includes getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and relaxing. The provider will give written after-care instructions and a telephone number to call with any questions or concerns or if unusual symptoms develop, such as fever or severe cramps. It is normal to have bleeding and cramping after an abortion procedure.
Irregular bleeding may occur for up to 6 weeks after the procedure as well as cramps for a few days. Ibuprofen or Tylenol, or narcotic pain reliever, and rest and using a hot water bottle or heating pad may decrease the pain. In order to reduce the risk of infection, after-care instructions may include avoiding: vaginal intercourse; tampons; baths; swimming; and douching for several days or up to 2 weeks after the abortion.
An individual who has had an abortion should be able to return to work and regular routines within 2-3 days. Recovery after a dilation and evacuation procedure may take longer.
Contraceptive Care & Counseling
Abortion begins a new menstrual cycle so a regular period will occur in 4 to 8 weeks. Because pregnancy can occur very soon after an abortion, birth control should be discussed with a health care provider if the person is not seeking to become pregnant. Some providers offer contraceptive methods at the same visit as the abortion procedure. Individuals can often receive the intrauterine device (IUD), contraceptive implant, injection of depot medroxyprogesterate acetate (“Depo-Provera”), or other methods. This can be asked about at the time of the appointment scheduling.
Emotional Care Considerations
People experience a range of feelings following abortion, including sadness, happiness, empowerment, anxiety, grief, relief, and guilt. Initial feelings may also change over time. Although feelings of distress are normal, the most reliable indicator of how a person will feel after an abortion is her emotional stability before the abortion.1,2
Experiencing complex emotions and having strong feelings after an abortion—even negative ones—does not indicate that someone feels she made the wrong decision.3 Choosing to have an abortion is an important decision and the decision-making process can be stressful, even if the outcome is ultimately positive. In one recent study where some people cited negative feelings, 95% still felt abortion was the right decision.3
Abortion does not increase the risk of mental health problems. Pre-existing factors in a person's life, such as emotional attachment to the pregnancy, lack of social support, pre-existing psychiatric illness, and conservative views on abortion increase the likelihood of experiencing negative feelings after an abortion.4 One study found that an individual reported emotional difficulties following abortion if she felt that the abortion decision was not primarily her own (e.g., because a partner abdicated responsibility for the pregnancy, leaving her feeling as though she had no other choice) or did not feel that she had emotional support from friends or family.5
There is no right or wrong way to feel. Many providers offer post-abortion counseling or can provide referrals to supportive counseling services.