- After a medical or surgical abortion, you will likely have heavy bleeding for several hours.
- Depending on how many weeks pregnant you were, you may see a few more weeks after that.
- However, if you are passing large blood clots and are wetting two or more pads an hour, see a doctor.
Abortion is a safe and effective method of terminating a pregnancy when performed legally and by a trained physician who follows methods outlined by the World Health Organization.
But it can be helpful to know what physical symptoms to expect before you get one.
according to dr Lisa Masterson, a gynecologist in private practice, bleeding is one of the most common side effects of both medical and surgical abortions.
It’s also common to experience painful cramps after an abortion, says Dr. Monica Grover, a Board-Certified Obstetrician and Chief Medical Officer of VSPOT.
Grover says cramps can be intermittent for the first few days and then increase along with bleeding around the third to fifth day after the procedure.
The severity and duration of these symptoms are different for everyone and may depend on what type of abortion you had and how far along in your pregnancy you were.
Some patients experience light bleeding and spotting for two weeks after the procedure, while others have an episode of heavy bleeding immediately afterwards.
Below, OB-GYNs share exactly what to expect when it comes to bleeding and your period after an abortion.
bleeding after abortion
The amount and length of bleeding after the abortion can vary from person to person — it’s normal to experience light, moderate, or heavy flow, as well as blood clots or bloody vaginal discharge.
The type of abortion also plays a role:
- Medical abortions contain a combination of two drugs that cause you to shed your womb lining, which prevents the pregnancy from progressing.
- Surgical abortionsalso known as in-hospital abortions, usually involve a local anesthetic before a doctor inserts a device through your vagina to drain your uterus of any fetal or uterine tissue.
Here’s how much bleeding to expect with each procedure.
After a medical abortion, the bleeding usually starts one to four hours after taking the second drug. However, for some, bleeding begins between taking the first and second medication.
Heavy bleeding should only last a few hours shortly after taking the second pill, and blood clots ranging in size from a penny to the size of an orange can occur. In rare cases, heavy bleeding may not start until a few days after taking the medication.
As your body passes through the pregnancy tissue, the bleeding will decrease but may last 10-18 days.
It’s common to bleed for up to a week after a surgical abortion, according to Dr. Kim Langdon, an OB-GYN with the
Medzino platform. She says the blood can be a deep red to brownish color and sometimes contain small clots that appear red to dark purple. Curds should be no larger than a lemon.
After about a week, when the bleeding subsides, you can expect a pink or brown colored discharge. However, how long you bleed depends on how long you have been pregnant.
The longer you’re pregnant, the longer the uterine lining has had to thicken, which means more tissue has to be shed, Langdon says. For example, a surgical abortion at 16 weeks may cause more bleeding than an abortion at 10 weeks.
In addition, bleeding may decrease at rest and increase with physical exertion.
Langdon says your doctor sometimes prescribes methylergometrine, a vasoconstrictor drug, to control bleeding after a surgical abortion. In most cases, however, Grover says you just have to wait and see.
time after abortion
Pregnancy hormones disrupt your menstrual cycle, so you may not have your period at the regular time after the procedure, Langdon says.
Grover says you can expect your next period to start between four and seven weeks after you have an abortion.
It can take time for your hormones to regulate and your body to readjust, but according to Grover, your periods should become regular within two to three cycles.
When to the doctor
If you experience any of the following symptoms, OB-GYNs say you should contact your doctor right away:
- Heavy bleeding lasting 12 hours or more
- Heavy bleeding that soaks more than two pads in an hour
- Severe cramps that do not improve with over-the-counter pain relievers
- fever and/or chills
- Foul-smelling discharge
You should also contact your doctor if you do not bleed at all after a medical abortion, as this may mean the medication has not worked and you are still pregnant.
According to Langdon, the most common cause of excessive bleeding is an incomplete abortion. When this occurs, the bleeding is typically accompanied by abdominal or pelvic pain.
An incomplete abortion means that there is still some pregnancy tissue left in your uterus. In rare cases, an incomplete abortion can cause other complications, including:
- Sepsis: an immune response that can cause tissue damage and organ failure
- Hemorrhagic shock from severe blood loss
- uterine rupture
Less commonly, excessive bleeding can also indicate uterine injury that occurred during the abortion procedure.
Both incomplete abortion and uterine trauma can increase your risk of infection — which, if left untreated, can spread to the fallopian tubes and cause infertility.
“It’s normal and common to have some bleeding after an abortion,” says Grover.
The further into your pregnancy you get an abortion, the more bleeding you are likely to experience. Bleeding is usually heaviest in the 24 hours following a medical abortion, and then light bleeding and/or spotting may occur for up to 18 days.
Overall, bleeding after surgical abortion tends to be less but typically lasts from several days to several weeks. The bleeding may also be accompanied by clotting as well as cramps.
If you are ever concerned about the amount of blood or the duration of bleeding, consult your doctor.