Medical abortion (Abortion with pills) recovery and aftercare
What to expect during and after your medical abortion
If you have had a medical abortion with us, you will find all the information you need for your aftercare and recovery on this page.
This includes information on treatment, side effects, what to expect with pain and bleeding, recovery, and pregnancy symptoms and testing after your abortion. Recovery time after an abortion will be different for everyone, but you’ll usually feel better within a few days.
Medical abortion treatment and aftercare booklet
Whether you are visiting one of our clinics or the abortion pills have been posted to you (telemedicine), it is important to read our medical abortion treatment and aftercare booklet which provides all the information you need to know about medical abortion treatment and aftercare, including a step-by-step guide on how to take the tablets.
A guide to taking abortion pills and what to expect
In this short video, Dr Yvonne Neubauer explains what to expect when you take medical abortion pills: what’s in the pack that you will receive, how to take the pills and how to do the pregnancy test (included in the pack) three weeks after the treatment.
What to expect during a medical abortion
Everybody is different, but the abortion usually starts within a few hours and is usually completed within 1 – 2 days. Click on the tabs below to read more about what to expect with pain and bleeding during your medical abortion.
Most people will have significant cramping pain and will find pain relief helpful. If pain is severe, this is usually short lived and is relieved when the pregnancy passes.
Pain relief should be taken before you take the misoprostol, or if preferred when you start to feel cramps building up:
– Take 400-600mg (2-3 tablets) of ibuprofen immediately. You can repeat two tablets every four hours as needed for up to 48 hours. Do not take more than 12 ibuprofen (200mg strength, 6 tablets if 400mg strength) in 48 hours.
– You can also take two tablets of paracetamol regularly, making sure you do not take more than 8 paracetamol tablets in any 24-hour period.
– A hot water bottle, heat pack or bath can also be helpful.
– If the pain becomes severe, take one tablet of codeine and if it isn’t improving after 15 minutes take a second tablet. You can have two tablets of codeine every four hours for up to 48 hours. Severe pain is usually short lived and is relieved when the pregnancy passes.
– If you cannot take any one of these pain killers (e.g. due to an allergy) then the others should still work well.
We do not recommend using aspirin as pain relief, but if you are taking it for medical reasons you should continue to do so.
If your pain has still not been reduced after following the advice above, please call our 24-hour aftercare line on 0345 122 1441.
To read some of our client’s experiences of how they felt after taking abortion pills and the pain relief they found useful, click here: How to manage pain during a medical abortion
Everybody is different, but the abortion usually starts within a few hours and is usually completed within 1 – 2 days. Occasionally, it can take up to 2 weeks to fully pass all the pregnancy tissue, and you may continue to bleed for up to 8 weeks.
You are likely to experience strong cramping and bleeding which can last a few hours, but pain and bleeding is different for each person. During this time, it would be expected for you to pass the pregnancy tissue and most people will pass blood clots which can be as large as a lemon. As the gestation increases the pregnancy tissue may be more recognisable but most people will not clearly see a fetus. At 9 weeks the fetus is 3-8cm long. You may be more comfortable having a private toilet nearby to pass the pregnancy. You can also dispose of pregnancy products by wrapping them up within a plastic bag and putting in a normal waste bin.
Once the pregnancy has been passed, both the pain and bleeding will usually reduce. It may be quite heavy for a day or two as your womb returns to its normal size. It is usual to pass clots for a few days, but it should get less each day. It is normal to have some bleeding or spotting for 2 to 4 weeks after a medical abortion and for some people it can be for up to 8 weeks after. This bleeding may come and go and be quite irregular.
If you ever feel worried, please call our 24-hour aftercare line on 0345 122 1441 to speak to a healthcare professional.
The tablets work for most people but if you have any of the following, please contact the aftercare line on 0345 122 1441:
– None or only light bleeding by 48-72 hours after taking the second tablets
– The pregnancy symptoms have not improved/resolved by 7 days after the second tablets
– You still feel that you are pregnant 7 days after the second tablets
– You have a positive pregnancy test 3 weeks after the abortion
We may need to book you in for a follow up appointment to check the abortion has been successful. Occasionally, some pregnancy tissue and/or blood clots can remain in the womb after a medical abortion. If you have ongoing heavy bleeding beyond 72 hours after taking the misoprostol tablets or experience “gushes” of blood and/or moderate lower abdominal pain, please call us on 0345 122 1441. If the pain and bleeding is mild, any tissue will usually come away without treatment though it may take days to weeks to do this. Sometimes treatment is needed to help the womb get rid of this tissue and this can be more tablets or minor surgery.
Recovery after a medical abortion
It is important that you take all the time you need to look after yourself. We are here to support you. Click on the tabs below to see our recommendations to help your recovery after a medical abortion.
You can use any sanitary wear during and after the abortion, but sanitary pads can be easier to track your bleeding. On days your bleeding is heavy, we recommend wearing a suitable pad such as the thick maternity ones. If you use tampons or menstrual cups, please consider using sanitary pads instead for 48 hours after taking the second tablets (misoprostol) and if you use them, please change them regularly.
Drink plenty of water and do not drink alcohol until you feel you are able to.
Your vagina will clean itself with natural discharge. Do not use a douche or use any soap inside the vagina as this can disrupt the normal bacteria and increase the risk of infection.
You may feel light-headed during or immediately after your abortion. For your safety, don’t have a shower/bath if you are feeling lightheaded.
It is safe to have a bath, to go swimming and to exercise as soon as you feel comfortable to do so.
It is safe to have sex when you feel ready. Please remember that fertility returns quickly after a medical abortion. You can get pregnant again within a week after the abortion.
Pregnancy symptoms and testing after a medical abortion
It is important that you take the pregnancy test included in the medical abortion pack 3 weeks after you have taken the misoprostol tablets. Click on the tabs below to learn more about pregnancy symptoms and testing following a medical abortion.
It is important that you take the pregnancy test included in the medical abortion pack 3 weeks after you have taken the misoprostol tablets.
Please use the pregnancy test we have provided as it is different to the shop bought tests.
Some pregnancy hormones can be present for up to two months after an abortion. This means that a shop-bought pregnancy test may remain positive for up to two months, even though you are no longer pregnant, which is why you need to use the special one we provide.
If your pregnancy test is positive, call our aftercare line on 0345 122 1441 to speak to a healthcare professional. Our team can help you to book an appointment for an assessment, and further treatment if needed.
Your first period will usually return between four to eight weeks following a successful abortion. It is not uncommon for your first few period to be heavier and last longer than usual. Click on the link below to read more about what to expect during your period after an abortion.
When will I get my period after an abortion?
It can be normal to still have tender breasts for a couple of weeks after your abortion. If your breasts are still sore after 3 weeks, please call our 24-hour aftercare line on 0345 122 1441.
Nausea and vomiting (morning sickness) should stop after a couple of days. This is one of the first pregnancy symptoms to stop after an abortion.
Our aftercare line
It is important you take all the time you need to look after yourself after your abortion, and we are here to help. We have a 24-hour dedicated aftercare line, where you can talk to one of our nurses about your aftercare and recovery.
Understanding complications after an abortion
Serious complications have warning signs. Please call us straight away on 0345 122 1441 if you experience:
- Very heavy bleeding that soaks through more than 2 sanitary pads (suitable for a heavy flow) an hour.
- Abdominal pain or discomfort that is not helped by pain relief medication, or by a heat pad.
- Vaginal discharge that smells unpleasant.
- Feeling hot and shivery with a high temperature that is 38°C or above.
- Generally feeling unwell.
Sepsis can be caused by an infection in any part of the body. Sepsis after an abortion is rare, but very serious and you should be aware of the symptoms. Symptoms of sepsis can be like having the flu at first. If you develop any of the signs below it is important to seek urgent medical advice:
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Slurred speech
- Extreme shivering
- Severe muscle pain
- Being unable to urinate
- Severe breathlessness
- Loss of consciousness
- Cold, clammy and pale or blotchy skin
Support after your medical abortion
We are here to support you after your abortion. Find more information about support available – including our counselling services, contraception services, and abortion stories from our clients.
As part of abortion care, counselling services are available any time you need to talk.
Learn more about contraception as part of your abortion care.
Read medical and surgical abortion stories from our clients.
Looking for more information about medical abortion?
You’ll find answers to commonly asked questions about medical abortion here. If you can’t find the information you need, please call us on 0345 300 8090.