If you have had a medical abortion, you may have felt relief after the process. However, while you no longer have to worry about a pregnancy, you may have some concerns when receiving health care in the future. Women frequently get asked by health-care providers if they have had previous pregnancies in the past as this can sometimes be helpful information for them to have. Well, what should you say? Will you need to disclose that you have had an abortion?
Another common concern is whether or not a health-care provider will be able to tell if you were previously pregnant or have had abortions. If you said you have not previously been pregnant, will they be able to tell that you have?
These are all common questions and concerns for people who have received abortions. Many people live in countries that have abortion restrictions with legal, cultural, and social implications. Disclosure or identification of previous abortions could be detrimental, but have no fear. We will discuss the answers to these questions in this article.
What types of pills are best for privacy?
If you do not wish to disclose your abortion to health-care providers, it is best to take your abortion pills sublingually. Providers will have no way of knowing that you took the medication this way. However, if you take the pills vaginally, the pill remnants may still be inside of you. If the pills remain, they may be identified by hospital staff.
When should I seek medical attention?
When undergoing a medical abortion, you do not need to seek medical attention unless you are experiencing warning signs such as
- filling two pads or more (completely soaked front to back, side to side) in one hour or less which lasts for two hours or more;
- a fever of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) that does not decrease after taking ibuprofen (always confirm with a thermometer);
- a fever of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) that does not decrease 24 hours after using Misoprostol (always confirm with a thermometer);
- pain that does not get better after taking ibuprofen;
- blood that has a very different color or smell from your regular period or smells bad; and
- redness, itchiness, or swollen hands, neck, and face which can be a possible allergic reaction to the medications (an antihistamine can be used, but if a woman is having difficulties breathing, then the allergic reaction is very serious and needs medical care immediately).
Though rare, the risks of a medical abortion are incomplete abortion, infection, or injury. If one of the above symptoms occurs, it is considered a warning sign and it needs immediate medical attention (in one hour or less or 30 minutes or less if anemic).
What to do if you are currently using abortion pills
No warning signs
If you are currently taking abortion pills, do not want to disclose this to your provider, and are not experiencing serious symptoms, we recommend a self-managed approach approach. This means waiting for your body to expel the pregnancy contents before seeking care. If the abortion pills are successful, the pregnancy will be terminated, and you will not need extra medication or surgical interventions by a physician. After waiting a sufficient time, when you go in for a routine medical appointment, your provider will not be able to tell that you were previously pregnant.
If you are experiencing serious warning signs that require medical attention, seek help right away. You may be nervous if you are still taking the abortion medication, but your health is a priority. There are a few strategies to approaching this situation that allow you to keep your abortion private.
Your provider will have no way of knowing that you used abortion pills, as long as you took them sublingually. However, your provider may still be able to see the pregnancy contents in the womb. This is okay, as pregnancy contents post-abortion have the same appearance as those in a miscarriage. Thus, medical staff have no way of differentiating if you had an abortion or are undergoing a miscarriage.
Additionally, there are no tests or labs done by the hospital that could possibly detect this medication in the body (if taken sublingually). Despite this, some institutions where abortion is restricted will try to coerce you into admitting you’ve taken abortion pills. They may say they have tests to detect the medication, but this is not true. Before going in for care, make sure to prepare what you are going to say and how you are going to act.
Well, what exactly should you say? You can say something along the lines of the following:
- “I began bleeding, and I do not feel well.”
- “I have a lot of pain, and I am not sure what is happening.”
- “I’m bleeding, but it does not seem like my normal period.”
- “I have a high fever, and I’m not feeling well.”
All of these statements are vague and indicate that you may be having a miscarriage. The treatment for complications of a miscarriage and an abortion are identical, meaning you will receive proper care regardless of what you tell them the reason is.
What can I tell my health-care provider in the future?
Let’s consider the scenario where you previously had an abortion that was successfully completed. When seeing a provider in the future, you may wonder what you can share. Here are two good options if you wish to keep your previous abortion private:
- Say this is your first pregnancy. Your provider will not be able to tell whether you have had a previous pregnancy and saying this will not impact your care.
- Say you had a previous pregnancy, but miscarried. It is not possible for someone to differentiate between the signs and symptoms of an abortion versus a miscarriage as they are the same.
Remember, you are not alone and you are really strong because you are facing a battle that is much bigger than yourself. Many people out there need to handle the abortion while experiencing the backlash of stigma at the same time. Always contact us if you need someone to talk to, we are here to listen and support you on this journey!