Honest But Positive Medical Abortion Experience
I had a medical abortion on 5 June 2013 (5 days ago), 8 weeks into my pregnancy. Throughout the whole experience, I found these forums invaluable for the information, sharing and support they provide, so I’ve decided to share my experience in case it can address any questions or fears others may have. This account is very honest and detailed in the hope that it can be helpful for both those awaiting the procedure, worried about what to expect, and those wishing to make an informed decision on the type of abortion to choose, or whether abortion is really right for them. This is my experience of abortion.
Surgical abortion felt too invasive for meI opted for the medical abortion to be carried out at an NHS hospital in London. After 2 appointments of routine tests and questions (a week apart), I took the first pill on 3 June and went home. This pill made me feel a bit dizzy and I experienced very mild cramping like period pain, but it was hardly noticeable, and I carried on as normal.
On 5 June, I returned at 09.30 with my sister for support, and was shown to an open plan room with big comfy seats set around the edge. The TV was tuned to a music channel. There were five of us undergoing the procedure that day, and some of us got chatting, sharing our fears and stories with each other. It was good to break the ice and create a sort of “we’re-all-in-this-together” supportive atmosphere. We were then shown to the toilets. Each of us had a toilet to ourselves (luckily). We were told that anything that came out of our body had to go into the cardboard bedpans provided so that they could be checked by the doctor to monitor our progress. Bear in mind that the side-effects of the drugs include diarrhoea and vomiting… Also, any soiled sanitary towels and tissues had to be kept in separate bedpans for the same reason. You do not have to look at anything though, and the bedpans were constantly checked and emptied by the nurses.
In a private room, the nurse inserted 4 tablets into my vagina, gave me 2 paracetemol and an anti-sickness tablet, and sent me back to the room to wait. A nurse or doctor was in the room with us at all times. I had brought some magazines and a book for entertainment. Within 30 minutes or so the cramping had begun, but I tried to ignore it and kept reading. The pain steadily got worse – much worse than the most sickening period pain I have ever experienced. Several of the other women had by now asked for more pain medication. We all were looking increasingly uncomfortable, but kept smiling and encouraging one another. On request, I was given a codeine tablet. I am sure it probably had some effect, but I felt no noticeable easing of the pain. The contractions would last for 20-30 seconds and then ease for 10-15 seconds before starting again. I noticed that I had goose-bumps all over my body, and was sweating a lot whilst feeling cold. My sister says the room was boiling though – she was in shorts and t-shirt and still felt hot. I was by now shaking a lot with the pain too – as was everyone else - and certainly couldn’t focus on anything like reading or watching TV, but I was still handling it quite well.
20 minutes after the codeine tablet, I suddenly felt sick and ran to the bathroom. I kept being sick about every 15 minutes for over an hour. I couldn’t keep any liquids down so they gave me an anti-sickness injection which sorted me out immediately. Oddly, this wasn’t as bad as it sounds – it kept my mind off the pain at least and passed the time! I was the only one out of the five of us who was sick, so I think it’s pretty unusual.
The pain was now excruciatingThe contractions were increasingly strong and overlapping – maybe 1-2 seconds respite in between the waves of pain. Enough time to breathe. I was worried that I hadn’t started bleeding yet, and began to wonder how long this would last! I couldn’t really hear or speak as all my energy was going into coping with the pain, and I didn’t like keeping still so walked (or rather shuffled) around the room to try and keep my mind off of it. The nurses also said walking would bring on the miscarriage sooner. I was completely unaware of the passage of time or anyone else. It was just me and my pain, and remembering to keep breathing.
During this time, one of the other women suddenly fainted with the pain and the medical staff were great at dealing with it, getting her on to a bed in a private cubicle and providing her with a saline drip and stronger pain meds whilst saying all the right things - she was completely fine in the end. I was at that moment very thankful to be doing this in a hospital with competent, experienced staff rather than at home as other clinics seems do it. Significantly, this woman was alone and so couldn’t really talk to anyone about how she was feeling throughout the day. It must have been scary for her, especially when she realized she was not feeling good and about to faint. I therefore really strongly recommend that you bring someone with you (although no males are allowed). I certainly felt safer having my sister there. I knew if I told her I didn’t feel too good she would be able to talk to the nurses etc…
Whilst my pain was getting worse and was pretty much constant now, the girl next to me was only experiencing 20-second contractions every 5 minutes or so – we had very different experiences. At about 13:30, I was just about to ask for my second codeine tablet – thinking I couldn’t take much more of this – when I suddenly felt a rush of blood and ran to the bathroom. There was quite a lot of blood which filled the bedpan but by this stage I was so relieved to see it! I stayed in there a while trying to get as much out as I could. When I returned to my sister and the others I felt sooooo much better. I wasn’t grey-coloured any more, there was barely any pain and I suddenly realized I was starving, tucking into the sandwiches and fruit that were provided whilst chatting to my sister. The sudden transformation was incredible. I was yet to pass the pregnancy, but in very little pain. About every 20 minutes I felt pressure and ran to the toilet, each time passing more blood and clots (painlessly). At about 15.00 the doctor said she was pretty sure I had completed and confirmed with an ultrasound. I was discharged after a few last-minute checkups at about 16.00, leaving the others with a hug of support. Some of them were still waiting to even start bleeding.
I relaxed for that night and the next day, but did do quite a bit of walking to keep my energy up. There was a LOT of bleeding and I had pretty normal period-like cramps. To be honest I felt great, with a sudden increase in energy and appetite (compared to being pregnant) and certainly well enough to return to work and a gentle yoga practice on June 7. At work I was more exhausted and weaker than usual, so I probably went back too soon. And the 3rd day after the abortion the cramps started to get very bad, flooring me with pain on occasion. I’ve checked and this is pretty normal 3-4 days after the abortion, particularly if you start doing too much too soon (like yoga!), which is tempting because you just want to return to normal. So remember to take it easy and give your body time to recover. I learnt that the hard way. I’m still bleeding and cramping but it’s completely manageable with ibuprofen. I am itching to get back to exercise though.
Although my experience was tough both mentally and physically, I would certainly still describe it as a positive one – as much as one can hope for in this situation. It is incredible what we as women can do: how strong we are, how our bodies and minds can cope so well in such extreme situations, and how the pain just evaporated and is a distant memory now. I am surprised by how well I handled it. **It is NOT easy, and I will never do it again**, but I really believe this process shouldn’t be just a walk in the park: this is a significant thing physically and emotionally. I am therefore glad that I was awake and aware for the whole experience, able to understand and feel what was going on in my own body. For me, that makes my difficult decision to abort more real somehow - I lived through it, faced up to the reality of it, and I have totally accepted my choice as a result. It was right for my circumstances. Good luck to everyone. Whatever your decision may be, I hope this account will help you do what feels right for you.