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Getting Back to Normal After an Abortion

If you’re about to have an abortion then you’re probably wondering how long it will take you to recover. It’s important to know what to expect so that you can make the right choices about your treatment. You will also need to arrange some time off so that you can rest for at least a couple of days after the termination. How long will you need and what should you expect during this time?

Physical Recovery

The physical effects of an abortion are usually quite mild and you should recover quickly. However, the effects can depend on which type of abortion you have and how late in the pregnancy you had the procedure. It could also take longer to recover if you experience any complications. In most cases, you should feel back to normal within a couple of weeks. However, you won’t need to take all this time off work as you’ll feel much better within just a few days.

You can go home right away after taking the abortion pill and you should be able to leave the hospital within a few hours of a surgical termination. However, you should expect to experience some physical symptoms over the next couple of weeks:

  • Bleeding for about 1-2 weeks. It is heaviest during the first few days, but there may be spotting after that. Make sure that you use pads rather than tampons to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Cramps for about 1 week. These will feel like period pain and should be managed the same way. Ibuprofen or paracetamol should help, but don’t take aspirin as it can affect blood clotting. If painkillers don’t help, consult your doctor.
  • You might feel tired, sick or have tender breasts for a few days after the termination.

The effects will be strongest in the first couple of days, so it is a good idea to take some time off to rest at home:

  • Aim to take 1-2 days off so you can rest and recover. You might need longer if you have a very physical job.
  • You should be able to do most of your usual activities within a couple of days, but don’t push yourself if you still feel sore or tired. Avoid strenuous activities such as working out or carrying heavy items for a couple of weeks so your body has plenty of time to heal and recover.
  • You can have a shower right away, but make sure someone is nearby if you had a general anaesthetic as you could feel drowsy for 24-48 hours. It is best to avoid taking a bath for 48 hours after an abortion as it can increase the risk of infection.
  • Don’t drive for 48 hours if you had a general anaesthetic.

If you notice anything unusual then you should get in touch with your doctor. The doctor will explain what to watch out for before you have the procedure. Possible signs of trouble can include a fever, severe pain, and heavy bleeding. Any complications can usually be treated very effectively as long as you seek help quickly.

Emotional Effects

It can be harder to predict the emotional effects of an abortion because every woman is unique. How you feel after the abortion and how long these feelings last can depend on your situation and personality.

You might experience some or all of the following emotions:

  • Relief
  • Sadness
  • Feelings of emptiness or loss
  • Guilt
  • Anger or blaming yourself or your partner
  • Anxiety about getting pregnant again

The feelings might come and go quickly or last for a long time. Sometimes they can come back in the future, especially if you are going through a similar experience like pregnancy or losing a family member. In some cases, having an abortion can even trigger depression or other mental health disorders, but this is rare.

It is important to get the help you need to manage the emotional impact, especially if you are having trouble coping or think you might have a mental health condition. You might want to talk to friends and family, ask your doctor for help, or see a counsellor. Allow yourself to work through whatever feelings you are experiencing, in your own time.

Sex after an Abortion

Another important part of getting back to normal after an abortion is your sex life. Both the mental and physical effects of an abortion can affect your libido and the way you feel during sex. You might not feel ready to have sex for a while after the procedure. You could be bleeding and feeling uncomfortable for a couple of weeks, which is unlikely to make you feel very sexy or aroused. Even after the physical effects have disappeared, you might not be emotionally ready to have sex again. It is important to wait as long as you need and to be aware that you might feel a little bit different when you are ready to have sex again.

  • Avoid having sex for a couple of weeks after the abortion or at least until you stop bleeding.
  • Don’t rush yourself if you don’t feel ready both physically and emotionally. If your body still feels different or you’re feeling anxious about having sex then it is OK to wait. Two weeks is the minimum amount of time to wait, there is no maximum.
  • Make sure that you’re using contraception as you will be able to get pregnant right away after an abortion.

Where to Get Help

If you have any questions or concerns about your physical, emotional or sexual wellbeing then there are plenty of places where you can get support:

  • Your doctor can help if you are experiencing any physical issues or complications. They can also provide advice on other aspects of your recovery and refer you to a counsellor or other specialists if necessary.
  • Mind is a great resource for all kinds of emotional and mental health concerns.
  • Relate can provide couples counselling, including advice on your sexual relationship.

Do you have any other resources to share with women or couples who are going through this experience?

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