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Physical side effects after having an abortion

Recovery after an abortion usually happens quickly. But it is different for every woman. 

Around 2 or 3 out of every 100 people who have an abortion at less than 9 weeks pregnant may experience emotional and physical side effects.

After having an abortion, you'll probably have some period-type pains, stomach cramps and vaginal bleeding.

This should start to gradually improve after a few days, but can last for 1 to 2 weeks. This is normal and is usually nothing to worry about.

The bleeding is usually similar to normal period bleeding. But you may also pass some small blood clots.

After a surgical abortion, you might not have any bleeding until your next period is due.

If you have a medical abortion, you may experience short-lived side effects from the medications, such as nausea and diarrhoea. These side effects usually stop within 3 days.

General anaesthetic and conscious sedation medication can also have side effects.

After an abortion you can:

  • take ibuprofento help with any pain or discomfort
  • use sanitary towels or pads rather than tampons until the bleeding has stopped

When to get urgent medical advice

Talk to your GP or doctor immediately if you experience any signs of a possible problem, such as:

  • severe pain that can't be controlled with painkillers such as ibuprofen
  • continuous and heavy bleeding that soaks 2 or more pads in an hour for 2 hours in a row
  • abdominal pain or discomfort that is not helped by medication, rest, a hot water bottle, or a heat pad
  • a high temperature of 38°C or higher
  • discoloured or smelly discharge from your vagina
  • signs or a feeling that you are still pregnant, such as nausea and sore breasts
  • no bleeding 24 hours after using all the the second medication (misoprostol) you've been given, if you have had a medical abortion

You can also call the My Options support service on freephone 1800 828 010. Nurses are available 24/7 to take calls and give medical advice. They can tell you what to do if you have any of these symptoms.

Next period

Your next period should begin around 4 weeks after your treatment.

If you have not had a period 4 weeks after your treatment, you should contact our support service on 1800 828 010.

Returning to normal activities

Most women will be fit and well enough to return to normal activities within 1 or 2 days. But everyone is different.

Work

You should rest until you feel able to return to your normal routine. Plan to have 1 or 2 days off after an abortion so that you can rest.

Travel

It is best not to travel within 24 hours of having an abortion. If you must travel, make sure you know how to access emergency services at your destination. This is in case you experience a complication.

Related topics

Possible complications of a medical abortion

Possible complications of a surgical abortion

Sex

You can have sex again once you feel ready. But remember that you can get pregnant almost immediately after an abortion. It is important to use contraception if you do not want to get pregnant.

Bathing

You can take a bath or shower as normal after an abortion. But take care if you have a bath within 24 hours of having a general anaesthetic. You will need to make sure someone is around to keep an eye on you. This is in case you are still feeling drowsy.

Page last reviewed: 18/12/2018
Next review due: 18/12/2021

Call the My Options freephone line

We're here to support you.

Freephone:

1800 828 010