“making a choice YOU can live with, living with the choice you have made”
At any stage of pregnancy, abortion is safer than having a baby. An abortion is safest, simplest, and least expensive early in pregnancy. There are risks associated with abortion, as with any medical procedure, including childbirth. If you choose to have an abortion, you will be given a consent form to sign that outlines the possible complications of an abortion, and how they would be handled. In most situations, following the aftercare instructions you get, and staying in touch with the abortion provider will allow any minor complications to be handled easily.
Before we discuss whether abortion will hurt, let’s talk about the way we look at pain. Have you ever had a pair of shoes that hurt your feet, but were really cute, so you wore them anyway? Were you scared? Did you wear them for longer than 10 minutes? Do you have a tattoo? Isn’t it funny that the way we think about and feel about pain makes such a difference in our interpretation?
No one wants to feel pain. People often assume that pain or even discomfort indicates that something is wrong. But, in an abortion, cramping just indicates that the uterus (which is a muscle) is contracting. That is what it is supposed to do as it is going back to its usual small size after an abortion. It is fine if you don’t have cramping, but very normal if you do. A vacuum aspiration abortion in the clinic only takes about 5-10 minutes, depending on the length of pregnancy. It can feel like mild menstrual cramps for most women, and severe cramping for others. An abortion empties the uterus of the embryo, fetus, blood, and other tissue that is there. The uterus is a muscle, so it contracts as it empties and closes back down to its normal size, the way a balloon empties of air. Some women continue to having cramping and often bleeding or spotting over the next couple of weeks. Your next normal period could start in a month—or two months, so be sure you have a reliable method of birth control if you have sex.
If it is important to you to know what the pregnancy looks like, click on the information below. You can also go online to search for this information, but be aware that pregnancy is measured in different ways on different sites, so a clinic will likely give you a measurement dating from your last normal menstrual period—but many on-line sites will give that measurement from the actual time of conception. Because most women have a period two weeks before conception, hat means that a clinic measurement of 8 weeks is the same as an on-line measurement of 6 weeks.
It is only logical that a pregnancy looks more like a baby as the pregnancy progresses. During the first several months of pregnancy, the embryo/fetus is totally dependent on the woman’s body for its survival.
The answer is no. As someone who catches spiders in a jar to put them outside instead of squishing them, I understand how important it is to most women to know that they are not inflicting pain on the embryo or fetus by having an abortion. Legitimate scientists agree that the fetus cannot feel pain until about 27 weeks, because the brain and nervous system are not developed enough. If you research this on the Internet you will find many contradictory articles, because the people who want to make abortion illegal often claim that even embryos feel pain. Once again, they are using women’s love and caring to frighten and shame them.
Of course women don’t want to be cruel, and the idea that they would be hurting the fetus—or their baby--as they may think of it, can be devastating. That is one of the reasons the anti abortion people have made these claims—to make it as difficult as possible for a woman who chooses abortion. It can be hard to accept that having an abortion means ending the life of the fetus—but, of course, that’s what it is. If abortion were not as complex as life and death, no one would be fighting about it. The sperm and egg that create the pregnancy are alive, or no pregnancy would occur. And the pregnancy is alive. So, abortion is a kind of killing. It is important for any woman who chooses abortion to find a way to make peace with the fact that abortion is ending life.
Unless there is a major unexpected complication, an abortion procedure should not affect your ability to become pregnant in the future. Many of the medical procedures that are used are designed to protect your ability to have a baby in the future if that is what you want. Of course, there is never a guarantee that any woman will get pregnant.
No. There is no scientific evidence that having an abortion increases a woman’s chances of having breast cancer. This is another of the false claims made by the people who want to make abortion illegal. They have even convinced some Republican state legislatures to force doctors to tell this lie to women before they have an abortion.
Yes. Most clinics will be able to help you start a form of birth control. But be aware that your cycle has been interrupted. You may have your period a month after your abortion—or perhaps not for two months. It is hard to know exactly when you will be fertile again, so it is very important for you to protect yourself if you don’t want to find yourself pregnant again. There are many different options for how to keep yourself safe from getting pregnant when you are not ready to be. Most clinics can assist you with whatever birth control you want to begin. This site has all the information you need.
Because of the Republicans’ long-time efforts to make abortion inaccessible, and ultimately illegal, Medicaid and other Federal health care doesn’t cover abortion. They have even made it more difficult to have your own private insurance cover abortion—but if you have insurance you should find out if you have coverage. Abortion is least expensive early in pregnancy, so once you are certain if your decision, don’t delay in finding a clinic. Remember, you may have to travel to get to a clinic, and, depending on the laws in your state, you may be required to make two visits. Many of the women who need abortions are already struggling with money. If you need help, be sure to ask your clinic. There are also many organizations that try to help. Go to the resources section on this website.
When you are looking at prices, abortion may seem expensive, but it is actually one of the least expensive medical procedures. When abortion was illegal it often cost much more. In the 1963 movie, Love With the Proper Stranger a first trimester abortion cost over $3,000! Contact the National Association of abortion Funds at
Some women have a hard time after an abortion—often because they didn’t have a chance to make a decision they were really sure of; or because they allowed someone else to pressure them; or because they were very deeply split about their choice. Remember that it doesn’t work to have a baby for someone else, and it doesn’t work to have an abortion for someone else. Women who have an abortion to try to save a relationship often find themselves very angry and resentful afterwards. They haven’t done what they know is best for them, and they often lose the relationship anyway. If you know deep down that abortion isn’t a good choice for you, don’t have one! Even though it may mean that your life is very complicated. An abortion is designed for a grown-up woman (no matter what your age—the most grown-up part of you) who has made a choice she can stand up for and own. If you are in desperation, you are not ready to have an abortion. Take the time to find your center, and make a decision you can trust—a choice you can live with.
No matter how you prepare for an abortion, you may be surprised by some of the feelings you have afterwards. Being pregnant is a big deal. No matter what you choose, it changes your life. Most of the issues you were dealing with before having an abortion are still there, but it is not like a magic wand that puts you back in time. It can change your relationships, the way you feel about yourself and how your life is going, and your dreams for the future. It can be a time of taking stock. The gift that can come at this difficult time is really making sure you are living the life you want to live. People who are against abortion will say that the abortion caused any issues you still have to deal with. But you know that life is complicated. Many of your concerns were there even before you got pregnant. Talking with a counselor can be very helpful to help you heal and prepare for your future.
Support for women having a hard time after abortion
Support for women who have had multiple abortions
If you were deeply split about your decision, and still had an abortion, you are likely to have a very hard time emotionally. After all, being split means that any decision you made betrayed half of you.
Please watch my Woman Split in Two YouTube video for more information and help with healing.
There are several ways an abortion can be done: with vacuum aspiration, medication; or in later pregnancy, D&E, or the induction of labor. The exact steps, and limits for each kind of procedure can vary from one clinic to another, so be sure you understand what it going to happen, and that all your questions are answered.
In early pregnancy you may have the choice of vacuum aspiration (gentle suction) or medication abortion. After 11 weeks, the clinic policies will determine the method of abortion.
About 90% of abortions are done within the first three months of pregnancy as measured from the last normal menstrual period. We are very fortunate that a gentle suction or vacuum method was invented to empty the uterus so quickly and safely! It was an enormous improvement over the traditional D&C. Because early abortion is such a quick and safe procedure, it can be done without the additional risk of a general anesthetic. Some clinics have options about additional sedation.
An in-clinic abortion done with a gentle vacuum usually takes about 5-10 minutes. Each doctor’s routine may be slightly different, but the woman is usually lying on an exam table in the embarrassing position of having her knees up on rests, similar to when you have a Pap smear. If there were a way to do this that didn’t require that position, I promise we would! The doctor usually does a quick pelvic examination to feel the shape and size of the uterus. Then inserts an instrument called a speculum, which holds the vagina open and allows the doctor to see the cervix, which is the end of the uterus. If you imagine a balloon that has air in it, the cervix is like the knot. The cervix is usually closed, but it naturally opens a little bit each month to allow the menstrual flow, and obviously opens significantly during childbirth. Local anesthetic, like what you get at the dentist, is put into the cervix to minimize cramping. This likely feels like a couple of little stings. In order to do the abortion, the doctor needs to open the cervix. To do this, the doctor will insert a series of slender metal rods—each rod a tiny bit larger. The length of the pregnancy determines how much it needs to stretch. Sometimes a medication that helps the cervix open will be used, and sometimes the cervix is stretched overnight using small rods that widen the opening by absorbing water like a sponge. The doctor will use the method that is best depending on the abortion method that is used. The plastic tube could be the width of a pencil, or slightly wider, depending on the length of the pregnancy. That tube is attached to the gentle suction machine, which allows the doctor to empty the uterus quickly and safely. Then the uterus, which is a muscle, can begin to return to its normal size, just as a balloon gets smaller when you let the air. As soon as the pregnancy is removed, your body and hormones will begin to go back to normal. You will likely have some spotting or bleeding after the abortion that could even last a week or two. As you know, when you are pregnant you don’t have your period. The blood stays inside your uterus, and some of it is absorbed into the spongy lining of your uterus. The bleeding you have after an abortion is that blood coming out—so you will probably have less bleeding if you are earlier in pregnancy.
That whole thing takes about 5-10 minutes, likely with some cramping.
After the abortion they will be checking to make sure you don’t have more bleeding than they expect; they’ll probably give you a snack; and they’ll likely repeat the very important instructions for how to take care of yourself afterwards. Making sure you are safe is a partnership. They provide the safest abortion they can, and then you pay attention to the instructions and to how you are feeling. If there are any problems, it is very important that you contact the clinic according to the after-hour instructions they will give you. After an abortion, why not treat yourself as if you were your most cherished friend.
In the first 11 weeks since your last normal menstrual period you may have the option of a medication abortion. This involves taking one medication at the clinic to stop the embryo from growing, and a second medication, usually at home, to cause the uterus to contract and expel the contents. This can take several days. The experience is similar to a miscarriage. For some women it is like having a strong period. A smaller number of women have reported very extreme cramping, sometimes nausea, and diarrhea. Some women choose medication abortion because the process takes place in their own home. They may feel it is less invasive or more private. But medication abortion usually requires a visit to a clinic, and usually an ultrasound. A medication abortion is as much an abortion as a vacuum aspiration. Once you have taken the first medications, the abortion has begun. In spite of what has been said by the anti abortion people, it is not possible to reverse a medication abortion, so do not begin one unless you are confident about your decision and have a safe place with some support during the process of the abortion. You will pass the tissue of the embryo or fetus, and you can dispose of it by flushing the toilet, or by wrapping it in a sanitary pad.