Woman's Right to Know - After an Abortion

What you may expect

After an abortion, you will need to stay at the doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital where the procedure was performed, so you can be checked for problems or complications. How long you will be watched will depend on the type of procedure performed and the anesthesia used during that procedure.

After you have been watched and before you go home, you may be given an antibiotic to prevent infection, and another medication to contract your uterus to reduce bleeding. Your doctor will give you instructions. Your doctor will tell you how long you must wait before having intercourse again and may discuss birth-control methods with you. You may receive a prescription for pain medication. After having an abortion, you should not drive yourself home.

It is normal for you to have some cramping and a small amount of bleeding after having any type of abortion. Your uterus contracting back to its normal size causes the cramping.


  • heavy bleeding occurs (2 or more pads/hour).
  • pain is severe or not controlled by pain medication.
  • you have fever.
  • you have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • you have chest pain.
  • you are disoriented.

Most women can return to their daily activities within a day or so after a procedure. It is important that you return to your doctor for a checkup two to three weeks after an abortion.

Emotional Side of an Abortion

You should know that women experience different emotions after an abortion. Some women may feel guilty, sad, or empty, while others may feel relief that the procedure is over. Some women have reported serious psychological effects after their abortion, including depression, grief, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, regret, suicidal thoughts and behavior, sexual dysfunction, avoidance of emotional attachment, flashbacks, and substance abuse. These emotions may appear immediately after an abortion, or gradually over a longer period of time. These feelings may recur or be felt stronger at the time of another abortion, or a normal birth, or on the anniversary of the abortion.

Counseling or support before and after your abortion is very important. If family help and support are not available to you, it may be harder for you to deal with the feelings that appear after an abortion. Talking with a professional counselor before having an abortion can help a woman better understand her decision and the feelings she may experience after the procedure. If counseling is not available to the woman, these feelings may be more difficult to handle. Many pregnancy-resource centers offer pre- and post-abortion counseling services; these centers are listed in the resource directory.

Future Childbearing and Infertility

The risks are fewer when an abortion is done in the early weeks of pregnancy. The further along you are in your pregnancy, the greater the chance of serious complications and the greater the risk of dying from the abortion procedure. Some complications associated with an abortion, such as infection or a cut or torn cervix, may make it difficult or impossible to become pregnant in the future or to carry a pregnancy to term.

Some large studies have reported a doubling of the risk of premature birth in later pregnancy if a woman has had two induced abortions. The same studies report an 800 percent increase in the risk of extremely early premature births (less than 28 weeks) for a woman who has experienced four or more induced abortions. Very premature babies, who have the highest risk of death, also have the highest risk for lasting disabilities, such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, lung and gastrointestinal problems, and vision and hearing loss.

Breast Cancer

Your chances of getting breast cancer are affected by your pregnancy history. If you have carried a pregnancy to term as a young woman, you may be less likely to get breast cancer in the future. However, you do not get the same protective effect if your pregnancy is ended by an abortion. The risk may be higher if your first pregnancy is aborted.

While there are studies that have found an increased risk of developing breast cancer after an induced abortion, some studies have found no overall risk. There is agreement that this issue needs further study. If you have a family history of breast cancer or clinical findings of breast disease, you should seek medical advice from your physician before deciding whether to remain pregnant or have an abortion. It is always important to tell your doctor about your complete pregnancy history.

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Last updated December 5, 2012