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Difference Between Pregnancy Termination and Miscarriage

Having an abortion can seem like a completely different experience to a miscarriage, but they might actually be more alike than you think. The effects on your body and the emotional impact can actually be similar. However, every experience is unique so the way that you feel can be very personal.

Why Do They Happen?

The main difference between pregnancy termination and miscarriage is the reasons why they happen. A termination is a procedure that a woman chooses to have in order to end her pregnancy. A miscarriage is something that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally. However, miscarriages are sometimes referred to as spontaneous abortions because the effects are so similar. The abortion pill actually works by triggering the same processes that occur during a miscarriage.

An abortion is a medical or surgical procedure that usually takes place early in the pregnancy. Most abortions are performed before 13 weeks, but it is legal to have a termination in the UK up to 24 weeks. Pregnancies can be terminated with the abortion pill or a minor surgical procedure to remove the contents of the womb. Women have abortions for many different reasons. Sometimes it is necessary to protect the woman’s life or health. In other cases, women may be worried about the impact on their emotional, social, family or financial wellbeing.

The term miscarriage is used to describe a pregnancy that ends before 24 weeks. Miscarriages can happen for various reasons, such as injuries or pregnancy complications. However, in most cases it isn’t possible to diagnose a specific cause. Sometimes it is just impossible for the pregnancy to continue. The foetus may have had an abnormality that was incompatible with life. It is usually impossible to predict who will have a miscarriage and there won’t usually be any impact on future pregnancies.

What Happens During an Abortion or Miscarriage?

The experience of having a miscarriage or abortion can actually be very similar in terms of the physical effects. If you have a medical abortion then you will be taking a pill that causes your uterus to contract and expel its contents. The abortion pill works by stimulating the same process as a miscarriage. The procedures used to perform surgical abortions can also be very similar to those used to treat miscarriages. Although medical intervention isn’t always required for a miscarriage, in some cases your doctor will suggest using medication or having a surgical procedure to remove the pregnancy. It can ensure that all of the tissue passes out of the womb and helps prevent complications such as heavy bleeding.

The effects on your body can therefore be very similar. You are likely to experience bleeding and cramps for a couple of weeks. You will probably feel sore and tired for a while so it is important to take as much time as you need to rest and recover.

Most women will feel physically back to normal within a fortnight. However, there is a small chance that you could experience complications. Your doctor will tell you to watch out for symptoms such as a fever, severe pain or heavy bleeding. If you feel like something is wrong you should get in touch with your doctor right away as you might need further treatment.

The Emotional Impact

The physical effects of abortion and miscarriage can be very similar. The emotional effects can also be similar, but the way you feel after an abortion or miscarriage is very personal. Every situation and individual is unique, so it is impossible to predict how a miscarriage or abortion will affect you. The way that you feel can be affected by:

  • Whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned
  • The length of the pregnancy
  • How severe the physical effects were, for example if you experienced complications
  • The reasons why it happened or why you decided to have an abortion
  • Your personal situation at home and work
  • The support you get from the people around you
  • Your personality and coping mechanisms

You might feel very different if you had to have an abortion to save your life during a planned pregnancy than if you had a miscarriage before you even knew that you were pregnant. However, there is no right or wrong way to feel. Your emotions are just as personal and important whether you had a miscarriage or an abortion. You should take as much time as you need to process your emotions and ask for help if you need it.

Having a miscarriage or abortion can cause all kinds of feelings. You might experience some or all of the following:

  • Relief that the experience is over
  • Shock or feeling as if it is not real
  • A sense of loss or emptiness
  • Guilt or blaming yourself or another person
  • Anxiety about the future, especially about future pregnancies
  • Sadness or grief

However, you could feel something completely different. The strength of these feelings, how long they last, and when they happen can also be very different for each of us.

Getting support from the people around you can be important, but everyone copes with these experiences differently. You might need to talk about your feelings or to take some time alone to think. Some women need to remember and mourn their loss, while others may cope better if they focus on their work or family for a while. It is important to allow yourself to feel and express your emotions in a way that works for you. Don’t feel guilty if your feelings don’t match other people’s expectations or if you process your emotions in a different way.

If you need more support, you can turn to your doctor, see a counsellor or find advice online. The Miscarriage Association and Tommy’s both provide excellent support for women who have had miscarriages.The Sexwise website offers support for women who are considering or who have had an abortion.

Do you know any good resources for women or couples who are going through these experiences?

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