Tens of millions of women around the world are getting abortions done every year, and the numbers just keep growing. In fact, abortion is the most common surgery that women undergo. The abortion methods today have evolved to being much safer and less invasive than they were before. However, an abortion is still going against the natural way of things and it is still somewhat of a shock to the body, not to mention the mind. So it is inevitable that there will be some abortion side effects. Some abortion side effects are very common and will be experienced by most women, while others are relatively rarer.
Many anti-abortion groups will use the abortion side effects as a way to discourage women from having abortions. If you ever visit a pro-life website, the abortion side effects listed there would make you think that every abortion is a horrific hack job and that an abortion is the most unsafe procedure in the history of medicine. This is understandable since these groups want to prevent women from having abortions, so they use they blow information about abortion side effects out of proportion. But they do not give you all the facts.
While it is indeed true that there are abortion side effects and that they can sometimes get pretty ugly, the number of women who experience abortion side effects to an extreme degree is actually so small that it is almost negligible. As an empowered woman of today, it is your right to know about abortion side effects, no matter how small the chance that you will ever suffer from any of them. While it is your doctor’s responsibility to tell you about abortions side effects, it is not always possible to fit the range of information about abortion side effects in an abortion consultation. Your doctor will probably just stick to the abortion side effects pertaining to the abortion method that you are showing a preference for. So here is an overview of the abortion side effects that have been known to occur after an abortion, the normal abortion side effects as well as the more intense manifestations of them. Make a note of any that are of particular concern to you and bring it up with your doctor during the consultation.
Physical Side Effects of Abortion
The longer you wait to get an abortion, the greater the risk of the abortion itself, and the greater the possibility that you will suffer abortion side effects. In other words, abortion in the later stages of pregnancy carry greater risk for the mother and the abortion methods for the later stages of pregnancy carries a higher rate of abortion side effects too. Following are some of the physical abortion side effects that you may experience after the abortion.
- Abdominal pain is one of the most common abortion side effects. The degree of pain differs from woman to woman. This is really a very personal thing and no doctor can tell you whether or not you will experience pain and how bad it will be. However, it has been observed that women who had negative feelings about the abortion or were depressed or nervous about the abortion experienced higher levels of pain than women who were more accepting of their circumstances.
- Bleeding is another of the more common abortion side effects. Bleeding is bound to occur in the case of surgical abortion methods since there may be a cut involved, depending on which stage of the pregnancy the abortion is being conducted, and because of the sharp surgical instruments used to carry out the abortion. Sometimes, bleeding may get excessive enough to warrant a blood transfusion. But this happens very rarely in abortion procedures carried out in modern medical facilities that are using up-to-date technologies and abortion methods.
- An abortion side effect of the excessive bleeding may be anemia.
- Spotting may occur for two to three weeks after the abortion.
- Period like cramps are also experienced by many women after an abortion, especially in abortion methods that administer medication to cause uterine contractions to expel the uterine lining to complete the abortion.
- Nausea is one of the more common abortion side effects in the case of medical or non-surgical abortions.
- Vomiting may also occur as a part of the abortion side effects. Again, this is more common with non-surgical abortion methods.
- Other abortion side effects of both medical and surgical abortion methods include diarrhea and dizziness.
- There is always the possibility of a cervical or uterine rupture from the abortion. This could lead to a host of abortion side effects ranging from infection to infertility.
- Uterine scarring is one of those abortion side effects that may have repercussions in future pregnancies. For example, the embryo or placenta in a future pregnancy will be more likely to embed itself on the site of the scar, which can lead to its own set of problems. Read about pregnancy complications for more details.
- Another possible abortion side effect is pelvic infection. This can happen even if there is no perforation of any organs and if the abortion is carried out under hygienic conditions. The source of an infection is not easily identified.
- Sometimes, abortion side effects can be caused not by the abortion method but by the anesthetics or other medications that are used which can lead to allergic reactions or heart attacks. An aversion to anesthesia is more common than you think.
- In very rare cases, death may occur as a direct result of the abortion. The reasons are not always known, and the risk of death is a possibility with any type of abortion, whether surgical or non-surgical in nature. However, it is usually excessive bleeding or an untreated infection that can be fatal abortion side effects.
Managing the Physical Side Effects of Abortion
There is no way to guarantee that you will not suffer from these abortion side effects. However, you can reduce your risk in the following ways.
- Most important of all, choose a qualified doctor and ensure that the abortion will be conducted in a hygienic facility with the latest medical equipment on hand with electricity backup.
- Tell your doctor about any existing health conditions that you may be suffering from and any medication that you are currently on.
- Abortion aftercare is very important. This will differ on the basis of the abortion method used. You will be given detailed instructions on what to do and what not to do after the abortion along with prescribed medication. Follow all instructions to the T.
- If you experience any abortion side effects that frighten you, especially bleeding or a fever (symptom of an infection), call your doctor immediately. You should be given a 24-hour emergency number.
- Finally, relax. Your emotional upheaval does not do your body any favors. It needs you to be calm to heal properly. So take some time off from work, turn that phone off, and do something you love for a couple of days after the abortion. Your mental state is very important in the healing of your body. Which brings us to the next set of abortion side effects.
Emotional Side Effects of Abortion
Most people think that negative feelings are the only emotional side effects of abortion. But the truth is that the psychological abortion side effects go much deeper and are more wide-ranging than most people realize. Of course, this does not hold true for all women who undergo an abortion. Just like all the other abortion side effects, the psychological and emotional abortion side effects may affect some women while others remain unaffected. Following are some of the long-term psychological repercussions of abortions that are not usually addressed even by the medical community and which most people do not know about.
Over 96% of women who have abortions will experience a little grief after the procedure. But most women get over it and move on with their lives. However, not everyone is the same. In some cases, women grieve for a very, very long time and are unable to forget or let go. This usually leads to deep depression which does not allow the women to lead normal lives. They may have to be treated with heavy anti-depressants or even admitted to mental health facilities till they are better.
Research shows that a high percentage of women who have abortions are more suicidal later in life. While they may not actually commit suicide, they think about it or talk about it often. Many will make at least one suicide attempt, and a few are successful at it.
Drug and/or Alcohol Abuse
Many women who have abortions also tend to abuse recreational drugs, medicinal drugs and alcohol. This is a way to deal with the stress and anxiety of the abortion and an attempt to block out the memory of the experience.
Self-esteem issues and self-confidence issues are the more common emotional abortion side effects. A considerable percentage of the women who have abortions will have feelings of guilt that manifest as self-loathing leading to a very low sense of self-worth. This leads to several issues in the workplace and in personal and romantic relationships. There are no other abortion side effects that are more damaging than this. For example, a woman with low self-esteem may not feel she deserves a higher position at work so will do only the little required to hold her job so she is not promoted or considered for a better position. Many women who have abortions end up with low-paying jobs even though they are qualified to do more. Another example of low self-esteem would be staying in an abusive relationship or engaging in meaningless sexual encounters with multiple partners. Psychiatrists feel that this is because the women feel guilt about the abortion and degrade themselves as a sort of punishment.
Another way of punishment or dealing with the stress of abortion is to eat too little (anorexia nervosa) or to try to fill the emptiness and dumb down the pain with compulsive eating sometimes followed by purging (bulimia).
Post-abortion, women may find that they are either unable to sleep well (insomnia), or are sleeping too much. Many women find that they are unable to get out of bed till noon or later. Some will spend more than 20 hours just sleeping. This is not normal sleep but another way of not having to deal with the negative emotions associated with the abortion.
The emotional abortion side effects are not experienced individually. They are usually a combination of some of the abortion side effects listed here. And each of the side effects can have dramatic results on the other side effects. So women who suffer from low self-esteem as a result of the abortion are more likely to have eating disorders as well. And women who are depressed will likely experience more extreme physical abortion side effects too.
Managing Emotional Abortion Side Effects
- See an abortion counselor before and after the procedure for as long as you feel necessary.
- Group therapy can be very helpful too in managing the emotional abortion side effects.
- If possible, talk about your feelings with a close friend, spouse, partner or family member whom you trust and who is mature enough to handle the delicate situation. Talking to someone you know intimately can sometimes bring more relief than talking to a therapist because you are more likely to share deeper feelings and allow yourself to be vulnerable.
- Maintain a journal where you can jot down the feelings associated with the abortion. Writing is therapeutic and one of the best ways of looking at and accepting your emotions.
- If needed, ask your doctor to prescribe anxiety medication, anti-depressants or sleep aids to help counter restlessness, extreme sadness and insomnia.
Every woman will deal with her abortion in a different way. For some it will be a breeze, done quickly and never thought of again. For others it will be a traumatic event that they will relive everyday for the rest of their lives. The body and mind are not separate; rather, the human body is a holistic organism that needs to be addressed and treated as a whole. If thinking about an abortion, make sure that you are mentally prepared for it just as much as you physically prepare for it. Get abortion counseling, and see a counselor for a few weeks after the abortion as well to ensure that you learn to manage any negative residues that linger. Even if you think you are OK with having an abortion, many women find that it haunts those years after they get it done. It is never too late to get help for the psychological abortion side effects. Better to deal with them late than to live with the burden of guilt, anger, and depression.