South West Complex Termination of Pregnancy Network Post-Op Care

After your Abortion

In advance of you coming to Southmead Hospital for your abortion, we would like to provide you with some detailed information about what to expect after your procedure 

Side effects are common after an abortion, but usually short-lived. Any side effects you experience will depend on your procedure and the anaesthetic used.  

Side Effects From the Surgical Procedure

Bleeding – it is normal to have some bleeding after your surgical abortion. This may be heavier than a normal period, with small clots. It can last for up to two weeks.  

Pain – cramping pain is normal, as your womb returns to its normal size. Cramps can be constant or can come and go. It’s not unusual to continue to get cramping on and off for up to two weeks.  

Side Effects From the Anaesthetic

Drowsiness – it’s important you don’t drive, sign important documents (such as contracts) or operate heavy machinery for 24 hours after having an anaesthetic. Some car insurance specifies you shouldn’t drive for 48 hours after an anaesthetic, so please check with your insurance provider.  

Nausea and vomiting should settle within 24 hours following sedation or a general anaesthetic.  

Bruising – you may develop some bruising and pain where the cannula was inserted in your hand. Bruising usually settles within a week or two.  

Pain – you may feel some soreness in the vein where the anaesthetic was injected. This usually settles within a few hours. If you are in discomfort, you may want to take some pain relief tablets, such as paracetamol or codeine. Avoid taking ibuprofen until 12 hours after your procedure, if you had the painkiller suppository. Avoid pain relief that contains aspirin as well, as it can increase bleeding. Heat can help with cramps and make you feel more comfortable. Try applying a heat pad or (warm) hot water bottle wrapped in a towel or blanket to your lower abdomen. Wearing comfy, loose clothing and relaxing at home can also reduce pain. 

Abortion Aftercare

It is important you take all the time you need to look after yourself after your abortion. We recommend you use the sanitary wear you are most comfortable with.  

Your vagina will clean itself with natural discharge. It’s best not to use a vaginal douche as this can disrupt the normal bacteria in the vagina and increase risk of infection.  

If you have been given antibiotics, make sure you take all the tablets you are given as directed.  

Drink plenty of water and don’t drink alcohol for 48 hours after treatment.  

You may resume sexual or other physical activity when you feel ready to do so. 

Serious Complications 

Serious complications have warning signs. If you experience any of these symptoms below, you need to call us right away:  

  • Very heavy bleeding that soaks through more than 2 sanitary pads an hour. These pads should be suitable for a heavy flow.  

  • 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. 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, confusion, slurred speech, extreme shivering, severe muscle pain, being unable to urinate, severe breathlessness, cold, clammy and pale or blotchy skin, loss of consciousness  

Pregnancy Symptoms and Testing

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. If you still have symptoms of pregnancy three weeks after your treatment, please contact your original abortion service who you initially contacted before you were referred to Southmead Hospital. 

If you have any questions, or are having symptoms that concern you, please contact either your original abortion care provider, your local NHS hospital, or the gynaecology ward in Southmead Hospital on 0117 4146915 

South West Complex Termination of Pregnancy Network Post-Op Care