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How to manage pain during a medical abortion

Abortion  •  27 March 2023  • 7 min read

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medical abortion (also known as “abortion with pills”) is a safe and common procedure, offered up to 9 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. Every person is different and will experience different levels of pain and bleeding throughout the process. We want to help you know what to expect, and reassure you that we are here should you have any concerns or questions about medical abortion and the pain and bleeding involved. 

In this blog, you will find information about:

  • What to expect during a medical abortion 
  • How to manage pain during a medical abortion
  • How our clients describe their experience of pain during a medical abortion
  • How to get in touch with us  

What to expect during a medical abortion

If you are accessing medical abortion services with MSI UK, our nurses and midwives will explain what to expect during and after your medical abortion, and the pain and bleeding involved, during your consultation with us. This consultation can either take place over the phone, or in person. You will also receive a link (or a printed copy) of our Medical Abortion Treatment and Aftercare booklet, where you will find detailed instructions on how to take the pills and what to expect in terms of pain and bleeding.  

Every person is different and will experience different levels of pain and bleeding during a medical abortion, but 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. Below, we share our advice on how to manage pain during a medical abortion. 

How to manage pain during a medical abortion

A medical abortion involves taking two types of medicine at two different times. Some people may need to take the two types of medicine at the same time; if this applies to you, this will be discussed with you during your appointment. 

The first medication that is taken is called mifepristone. The second medication is called misoprostol. You can take misoprostol between 24-48 hours after you have taken the first tablet (mifepristone). 

Pain relief should be taken before you take the misoprostol, or if preferred when you start to feel cramps building up.

Ibuprofen (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drug)*: Take 400-600mg (2-3 tablets) of ibuprofen. You can repeat 2 tablets (400mg) every 6 hours as needed for up to 48 hours. Do not take more than 6 tablets (200mg strength, 3 if 400mg strength) in 24 hours.

Paracetamol*: You can also take 2 tablets of paracetamol every 4 hours, making sure you do not take more than 8 paracetamol tablets in any 24-hour period.

Codeine*: 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.

Do not take more than 8 tablets of 30mg strength in 24 hours. Severe pain is usually short lived and is relieved when the pregnancy passes. Codeine can cause drowsiness so please do not operate machinery or drive whilst taking codeine.

– Heat: A hot water bottle, heat pack or bath can also be really helpful.

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 reduced after following the advice above, please call our 24-hour aftercare line on 0345 122 1441.

*Please make sure you follow the instructions on the box for any medication taken. Do not take any medication that you have a known allergy to or have been told not to take by a healthcare professional.

How our clients describe their experience of pain during a medical abortion

We know how important it is for people considering a medical abortion or going through the process to be able to find information about what to expect. Reading abortion stories from those who have had a medical abortion is one way to find this information, and to feel reassured that you are not alone. In one story shared with us, an MSI client shared that “at the time of my abortion, I read every client’s story on this website so I told myself I would have to write my own. For me, this was comfort and reassurance from real people so I really hope that this will help others like me”. 

In the stories below, our clients explain how they felt after taking the abortion pills and the pain relief they found useful. 

A client’s experience of a medical abortion at four weeks 

“I started searching for the information about the process of termination and I fixed my mind on all the side effects one may have. I got really scared and confused. 

I was really scared that I was going to experience some terrible pain but nothing was happening for over two hours. I just watched some silly movies to take my mind of everything. I had no pain at all.” 

To read the full story from Lily, click here: Lily’s story – an abortion with pills at home 

A client’s experience of a medical abortion at six weeks 

“I had searched for other women’s stories and prepared myself. As I was only 6 weeks pregnant, I had a medical procedure at home with the support of my partner. The procedure was not as bad as I anticipated, although it was not easy. The most important aspect is to make sure you are comfortable and relax, if you have support available from your partner, your family, your friends – please utilise it and don’t go through it alone.” 

To read the full story, click here: My abortion pill story

A client’s experience of a medical abortion at nine weeks 

“It was painful, but it lasted only a few hours. It was a good decision to go through with the abortion, and I don’t regret it at all. I know it was best for me, and has paved the way for me to get my life and my mental health in order. I am now ready to have a baby, I am just waiting to move into a more suitable house, then me and my partner will start trying.” 

To read the full story, click here: An MSI client’s experience of a medical abortion at nine weeks 

Read more abortion stories from our clients here. 

We are here for you

We want you to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible when you come for an abortion and know how important it is for you to know what to expect. 

Get in touch

At MSI Reproductive Choices, we are here for you and there are a number of ways you can contact us.    

You can always get in touch should you have any questions about our services, would like to book an appointment or you have had treatment with us and want aftercare support.  


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