What Happens To Your Body During A 'Medication Abortion'?

The decision to have an abortion is not easy for any woman. For many, it could be one of the hardest decisions of their life. A woman may choose to have an abortion for a wide variety of reasons, such as when the fetus has severe abnormalities that would negatively impact their quality of life or could contribute to a miscarriage (per 132 Healthwise).

It's also possible for a woman to decide to have an abortion if she has been struggling with a mental health disorder, or has negative emotions surrounding the pregnancy that make her feel incapable of bearing a child. The decision to keep a baby is influenced by many other factors, such as where a woman is in her career or education, and her ability to support a child financially.

Whatever the reason for an abortion, the process can be scary and overwhelming, and many emotions can be triggered. It's common for many women to feel a sense of relief after having an abortion, feeling that they made the right choice for themselves (per Healthline). For some women, their relief is accompanied by sadness, guilt, and regret. They may feel regretful for not being in the position to take care of a baby, and can feel grief over the loss of their pregnancy. 

There are a couple of methods for terminating a pregnancy, with the most common being abortion via medication (per CNBC). What's going on inside a woman's body when she takes abortion medication?

What does medication abortion do to the body?

It's helpful for anyone considering an abortion to know what to expect during the process. According to Mount Sinai, preparation for a medical abortion includes an ultrasound and physical exam from a healthcare provider.

The first medication a woman will be instructed to take is called mifepristone, which prevents the progesterone hormone from working, and breaks down the lining of the uterus so that it can no longer support a pregnancy. There is a less common possibility that a woman may experience nausea and bleeding as side effects of the first medication (per Planned Parenthood). 

While mifespristone initiates the termination of a pregnancy, misoprostol is the medication that completes the process. Misoprostol can be taken immediately after taking the first medication or up to 48 hours later, depending on your doctor's discretion. After taking this medication, the uterus contracts, triggering cramping and bleeding over the course of days, as reported by CNN.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, heavy bleeding and cramping typically last for several hours, and may be accompanied by large blood clots. You could also experience fatigue, low fever, chills, nausea, dizziness, or diarrhea after the second pill.

Research has suggested that many women who disclosed having a medical abortion report experiencing some level of pain, with the average overall pain rating in a 2019 study being 5.2 out of 10, although labor was reported to be more painful. The Cleveland Clinic compares the pain from a medical abortion to that of strong period cramps. 

Relieving the pain of a medical abortion

The first few days after taking abortion medication can be painful. According to Planned Parenthood, women can be prescribed antibiotics to fight infections, as well as medication to shrink their uterus back to normal size.

Women experiencing pain can generally take 800 mg of Ibuprofen every 8 hours with food or milk. Avoid aspirin, since it can exacerbate bleeding. Discuss other medications with your doctor.

Call your healthcare provider if you experience a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for more than 12 hours, as this could indicate infection.

A medical abortion doesn't only take a toll on someone's physical health for a few days, but for some people, it can have an emotional impact. As described in an article published by the American Psychological Association, some women experience depression and anxiety after having an abortion if they wanted to have the child, or experienced social stigmas surrounding abortion or a lack of social support.

This is why it's important to have a strong support system after an abortion. It's okay to reach out to someone for help. Therapy may be particularly helpful for women who had to terminate a pregnancy that they wanted, struggled with their mental health before the abortion, feel guilty about their decision due to religious reasons, or are grieving the loss of their pregnancy (per GoodTherapy).