Are you thinking about getting an abortion? One of the things you’re probably wondering is what physical pain might be involved. Does the abortion procedure hurt? What are the different types of pain control with abortion? In order to answer this question, there are a number of considerations we need to address. By the time you reach the end of this article, you may have thought of other questions as well. That’s okay. The reason we’re here at Avenue Women’s Center is to help women just like you who are weighing their options with an unplanned pregnancy. Besides helping with your pain control question, we’ll tell you more about the services we can provide, so please keep reading!
To begin this conversation, we first need to acknowledge that individuals experience physical pain in different ways and in varying degrees. From one woman to another, abortion pain may range from mild to severe, depending on her physical and emotional condition, and what pain tolerance level she has in general. Additionally, how far along she is in the pregnancy and the type of abortion she is having may impact the pain she experiences.
Generally speaking, for a medication abortion utilizing the abortion pill, RU486, a sedative or anesthesia is not necessary. With the medication abortion, a woman takes the first pill at the clinic and typically finishes with the second pill 24-48 hours later at home. She should be prepared for strong abdominal cramping and heavy bleeding. Some women report that the cramping is intense and quite painful; for others it may not be as severe. The length of time for the cramping and bleeding can vary; for most it will be from a few hours to a few days. Nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills may also occur. Many abortionists allow over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, to help relieve cramping pain. (no aspirin products after any abortion, as they can cause increased bleeding.) A heating pad or hot water bottle may be helpful as well. Health care providers may also prescribe stronger pain medication if needed.
There are a number of types of surgical abortions. Suction curettage is the most common procedure. Surgical abortions are performed in a clinic or hospital. For a first trimester surgical abortion, women may opt for a local anesthetic and stay awake and alert through the procedure. A numbing medication is injected into the cervix to prepare for the procedure. She may feel some discomfort or cramping, but again, the level of intensity may vary from one patient to the next. Local anesthetic is not recommended for women who are 12 weeks and over in the pregnancy.
For a surgical abortion by dilation and evacuation (D & E), regional anesthesia (spinal or epidural nerve blocks) may be utilized.
Another option for pain control and relaxation may be “twilight” sedation, administered intravenously. This makes women feel drowsy and lessens any discomfort. Women can also ask their doctors about an oral sedative if they believe this will help them to be at ease through the procedure.
General anesthesia may be offered for a first trimester surgical abortion, but it is not required. A second trimester surgical abortion must be performed under general anesthesia. With general anesthesia, also administered through an IV, a woman should be fully asleep and feel nothing through the procedure. Many patients do experience nausea after general anesthesia.
If a woman receives a sedative or general anesthesia, she must have someone with her to drive her home from the clinic.
We hope this overview of different types of pain control with abortion has helped answer some of the questions you may be wondering as you make decisions and determine your next steps. It’s possible it has raised other questions in your mind. As we noted earlier, we are here to assist you at this challenging time.
You don’t need to face this alone. A key service we offer is free pregnancy consultations. We believe that when women are gathering their information and processing their options, they deserve to have caring, confidential support. We invite you to contact us by phone, text, email or chat to schedule a consultation at one of our five Chicagoland locations: Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn / Lombard, Naperville, West Chicago, and Wood Dale, Illinois. Our team of caring, experienced pregnancy specialists will be honored to serve you.
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015, May). Induced Abortion. Retrieved from: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Induced-Abortion#pain
- WebMD.com. Abortion – What to Think About. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/abortion-what-to-think-about#1
- Medscape. (2016, August). Dilation and Curettage With Suction. Retrieved from: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1848296-overview#a4
Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.
The information provided here is general in nature. It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention. Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.