By Belinda Munyeza.
Abortion – whether it is performed medically, such as with the pill (1) or clinically, such as with vacuum aspiration (2) – is a procedure that you need time and care to recover from. While both medical and clinical abortions are generally safe when performed by/under the guidance of a qualified practitioner, and while the process of recovery is relatively uncomplicated compared to other procedures, it is still vital to receive support post-abortion to avoid any issues. Furthermore, it is important to know how to take care of yourself in order to make the post-abortion recovery process easier, outside of the care provided by a medical practitioner. For most people, post-abortion complications are rare and only minor side effects are experienced. However, when it comes to managing these minor side-effects, lack of information on what to do and not do can worsen the discomfort and can lead to complications. The following information is useful in determining what to do and what not to do post-abortion to ensure you have a smooth recovery:
Do’s of Post-Abortion Care
One of the main methods of post-abortion support you can expect to receive from your doctor or medical advisor is contraceptive counseling. According to Paula H Bednarek, MD, MPH, contraceptive counseling involves the reviewing of your contraceptive preferences and introducing other options so that you can choose the best one for the short and long-term (3). Ovulation typically takes place 21 to 29 days after the abortion, so contraceptive counseling can be quite helpful post-abortion as it allows you to plan and avoid potential pregnancy while still in the recovery process (3). It is advisable to consult your doctor or medical advisor on contraceptive counseling post-abortion if this is not immediately offered.
Furthermore, there are some post-abortion selfcare actions you can also take at home. According to Healthline, you may experience some discomfort or side-effects post-abortion such as abdominal cramps, fatigue and nausea (4). You can practice self-care and relieve these side-effects through methods such as using heat pads for the cramping, keeping hydrated, especially when experiencing nausea, as well as taking a couple of days to stay home and rest in order to recover from the fatigue (4).
When it comes to medication, taking what is prescribed to you by your doctor/healthcare provider as assigned is an important aspect of post-abortion self-care. Planned Parenthood also recommends a few key medications, such as ibuprofen and Norco for pain and cramping (5). However, when it comes to medication, it is always best to double-check with your health-care provider or pharmacist about any medication you wish to take to alleviate your symptoms.
It is also advised that you monitor your symptoms and immediately notify your doctor if any of them are excessive. Excessive pain/cramping, bleeding and fever can be a sign of complication, and notifying your doctor will allow you to receive the appropriate treatment sooner. Excessive bleeding can be identified if you find that you have soaked two maxi-pads an hour for two hours in a row, and a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38 degrees celsius) is also considered an extreme side-effect (5). Pain can be harder to measure in terms of excessiveness, but if you find that you are experiencing what you consider to be extreme pain/cramping, you should contact your doctor.
It is also important to acknowledge that the process of abortion and recovering from it may be emotionally overwhelming. Another form of self-care you can employ in your recovery process is to reach out to any people in your life who can be around to help you feel more emotionally supported. Avoiding anything stressful such as work or any other concerns in the first week post-abortion can also help in this regard as it will allow you to recover both physically and emotionally.
Don’ts of Post-abortion Care
Going back to work, doing heavy exercise or engaging in any other strenuous activity in the first week post-abortion is not recommended. This is because a lot of physical activity so soon post-abortion can result in increased bleeding and cramping, which will delay the recovery process (6). Another factor that can delay recovery is infection. It is recommended that you avoid sitting in water such as in a bathtub or swimming pool, as well as douching, as this can cause infection (7). Avoiding vaginal intercourse as well as the insertion of tampons, menstrual cups or any other device in the vagina is also recommended for two weeks post-abortion as this may result in infection (7). If you use NuvaRing as your birth control, however, this is an exception as it does not cause infection.
Another thing to avoid post-abortion is the use of antibiotics unless they are prescribed by a doctor. It is not entirely necessary or advisable to take antibiotics unless an infection or the risk of it has been identified by a doctor (8). If a doctor prescribes you antibiotics, however, the opposite is true; you must take them as prescribed as doing otherwise can result in complications or delayed recovery.
Overall, aside from some minor side-effects, the post-abortion recovery process should not be too complicated or unpleasant. Most of the discomforts can be managed with the appropriate level of rest, care and medication. As long as you consult your doctor and care for yourself according to their advice as well as the tips provided above, you should recover in no time.