The choice to have an abortion is not one women make easily. Ending a pregnancy can be both physically and mentally uncomfortable, with emotions vacillating between sadness and relief. A woman might walk into an abortion clinic certain she is doing the right thing and come out doubting her decision. Conversely, a woman who walks in feeling conflicted might come to feel she made the right choice.
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Physical Side Effects
Common physical side effects after a surgical abortion include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Cramping similar to an intense period and spotting or bleeding might occur. The American Pregnancy Association states that serious complications occur in less than one out of 100 early abortions and one in 50 late-term abortions. These complications include damage to the cervix, scarring of the uterine lining, infection or sepsis, and perforation of the uterus. Although death from abortion is rare, any surgery is potentially fatal.
Psychological Side Effects
CareConfidential.com lists sleeping and relationship problems, flashbacks and feeling a need to replace the lost child as possible psychological consequences of having an abortion. A woman might feel relieved but guilty for feeling that relief. While many women are comfortable with their choice, others, particularly those from religious backgrounds, might experience depression after having an abortion. Some might choose to visit a counselor or therapist to deal with the emotional turmoil they experience.
Early Abortion Procedure
Abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy carries less physical risk and might cause less emotional discomfort. RU486, also known as the "abortion pill," allows women in the early stages of pregnancy to have a miscarriage at home rather than undergoing surgery. However, this method takes longer than a surgical abortion and requires the woman to be alert and aware during the experience. Surgical abortion, in which the cervix is dilated and the lining of the uterus aspirated by suction, takes only a few minutes and can be done under general anesthesia or with an intravenous pain reliever and sedative.
Abortion performed after the first trimester of pregnancy is more complicated and takes longer than early abortion. The cervix must be dilated overnight with laminaria, expanding sticks that gradually widen the cervical opening. The woman returns to the gynecologist the following day for a curettage procedure, in which the inner lining of the uterus is removed by scraping. There is a risk of uterine perforation or organ damage when a curette is used, though a well-trained gynecologist knows how to minimize that risk.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you have had an abortion and experience certain serious side effects, you should visit your doctor or an emergency room immediately. Severe abdominal or back pain that prevents you from standing can be a sign of organ or tissue damage. Bleeding that is much heavier than a normal menstrual period or a fever of over 100.4 degrees F constitute emergency. Abortion is overwhelmingly effective at ending pregnancy, but in rare cases, fetuses have survived. If you experience continuing symptoms of pregnancy, visit your gynecologist as soon as possible.