My medical (and subsequently surgical) abortion
I wanted to share my story of my medical (and subsequently surgical) abortion for anyone who is looking for an honest account of what happens if you are in the small minority that has a complication. I found out I was pregnant because I was one day late so I went to the doctors that day. This may sound a little over reactionary but for the last 5 years I have been able to tell almost to the minute when my period will arrive. Being a day late for me was a big indication something was wrong. I was confused at first because I was on the pill but these things do happen and they make a point of telling you they are not 100%. Fast forward through a lot - confirmation I was pregnant, the agonising conversation with my partner whether or not we should keep it, the ultimate decision not to because we are a relatively new relationship, we both work about 60 - 70 hours a week, our finances are not stable....all the usual considerations. So I went back to the doctors and told them I had decided to terminate the pregnancy. They filled out the requisite paperwork and handed it to me. I had to ring a central appointments system and make an appointment with the appropriate clinic for me. I had not been talked through my options yet. I duly made my appointment for the following Tuesday. My partner arranged to have the week off work to look after me despite my insistence I would be back to work the following day! The first appointment: The first appointment at the clinic I attended on my own as my partner got called into a meeting. It was a very long day. I waited to have my blood group taken (just a finger prick) and to talk through my options. Both procedures were explained to me (Medical and Surgical) and I opted for Medical. I have a fear of General Anaesthetic and I thought this was a more natural way (well as natural as it can be). So I had my scan dating me at 6 weeks and I was sent off to another building to start my treatment - a tablet to take orally with water. I drove myself home and lay down to avoid any sickness or cramps. Actually I fell asleep until my partner came home! I had no side effects at all from that pill The Second Appointment: My partner drove me back to my second appointment. Here I was given 4 pessaries to insert inside myself (all DIY) and some antibiotics with a list of guidance for what was 'normal' and what was not. I was also given some codeine for the pain 'if required'. I was given a pregnancy test and told to do it in 3 weeks. I was then sent off to insert my tablets and go home which I did. The 'procedure': I started to feel some twinges on the way home but nothing I couldn't handle. My partner got me straight up to bed and did not leave my side. Nothing happened for about an hour then the inevitable bleeding began. I felt it start so I went to the bathroom - nothing much. After that first trip, the pain in my stomach got worse and was just a bit worse than a normal period. I took some codeine to try and ease my discomfort and I shifted quite a lot to change position every 10 minutes. The pain lasted for about 5 hours and in those 5 hours I made regular trips to the bathroom to release large clots. You just know when you have to because you will just feel it. I never looked. Just flushed and back to bed. After about 5 - 6 hours everything seemed to ease off and I ended up drifting off to sleep. Afterwards: My bleeding continued heavily for a few days. I kept myself well stocked on pads. After about a week it tailed off to spotting and I finally started to feel like it was all over. Then suddenly one night, about 2 weeks and 3 days after the pills, I stood up from bed and noticed blood running down my leg. I went to the bathroom and saw that I had soaked through my night pad in less than 10 mins. I immediately (of course) started to panic thinking I was dying. My more rational other half got the out of hours doctor on the phone who promptly told me that if the bleeding was calming down then it was probably my uterus flushing itself out. I checked and sure enough the bleeding had slowed right down. I slept uneasily that night and was on edge for a few days but the flood did not happen again. Nonetheless I went to the GP who thought I had an infection. He gave me antibiotics. Even on these I still did not feel right and I started having tenderness in my right side of my abdomen. I went to a different doctor who told me he thought it was appendicitis but I had to 'wait and see' after the antibiotics. This is now 3 weeks after and I was getting frustrated. I knew something was not right in my body but no one would listen. Even my partner started to think I was going mad. At just under 4 weeks after the procedure on a Monday night I got my answer. It was 4.30 and I stood up from my chair and just felt a gush of clots. I sped to the bathroom and 2 large clots came out with a lot of blood. Not leaving anything to chance this time I went with my partner to A & E. I was promptly sent to gynaecology after some blood tests. They did a urine pregnancy test which was positive and proceeded to do a scan which showed that I had retained some of the membrane of the pregnancy, which explained the bleeding and the clots. They recommended that I have a small procedure ASAP to clear out my uterus and solve the problem. Unfortunately this would be under general anaesthetic but that is life! At least I had finally gotten someone to listen to me. The second procedure: I arrived in hospital 2 days later for my second procedure, very nervous about being put under but very ready for this all to be over. After some more tests I was changed into a hospital gown and I had to leave my other half in the waiting room. This was at about 1pm. After seeing the surgeon who explained the procedure to me I was taken to theatre at about 2.30. I was taken to pre-op where I laid on a bed while the anaesthetist and a nurse tried to distract me from the fact that they were about to put me under. I felt the anaesthetist insert the cannula into my hand which pinched a little but nothing more. Then the nurse had an oxygen mask over my face and was telling me it would all be fine while I felt my eyelids getting heavy and everything went a bit fuzzy. The next thing I knew a nurse was repeating my name and I was opening my eyes in recovery. The first thing I was aware of was pain in my abdomen (not unexpected under the circumstances!). I told the nurse this in a hoarse voice and she promptly brought me painkillers and water. In the next 20 minutes I began to wake up more and was more alert to my surroundings (recovery). The surgeon came to talk to me and said the procedure had gone very well and they were certain they had got everything (confirmed with a scan). Once I was able to stand I was walked through to second stage recovery where I was given a hot chocolate and some biscuits. A nurse came over to me with my clothes and a leaflet plus a host of new medications (I am rattling now!). She said that some bleeding was normal and could continue for 2 weeks (give me strength!) and told me what to watch out for. I was given antibiotics and painkillers and was told to take it easy for 24-48 hours while the general anaesthetic worked out of my system. Then once I was fully briefed I was allowed to go home at 4.30. Writing this now 3 days after surgery, I am still in a small bit of pain now and then and I am still spotting but in all I feel more myself than I have done for 4 weeks. All in all - not the most straightforward experience of my life and if I had to go back and change one thing I would have opted for the surgical procedure in the first place. I don't mean to try and put anyone off but it is quicker, cleaner and you get to sleep through the worst part. The medical procedure needs perfecting still I think and at least with surgical there are health professionals making sure the job is done. That being said, I was in a very unlucky 5% of people for whom the medical abortion pill did not work. So not everyone will have my experience. Please do not try to go through it alone. I could not have done it without my other half. It is a scary time and it is ok to be nervous. And reading stories like this one may make you feel better but also remember everyone is different and people's bodies are different and react in different ways. No one thing is 'normal'. Just play it by ear, take each day as it comes and if you feel like something isn't right - do what I did and push to get it seen to!
It is hard when you are one of a small percentage of women whose medical abortion is not complete and you have to have surgical intervention. It is one of the things that you have to weigh up when considering your options. I hope that you will make a good recovery and please contact CareConfidential if you need any support, or just someone to talk this through with.for post abortion support. or call the national helpline 0800 4000 999.