Now What? Self Care after Abortion
The topic of abortion is charged with so much emotion. The mention of this medical procedure brings up political divide, religious morals, and remnants of personal stories.
Despite all this, it remains one of the most common medical procedures performed on women today. A 2017 study by The Guttmacher Institute, a U.S. based institute focused on improving reproductive health and sexual rights worldwide, found that in the U.S.A., 18% of pregnancies (miscarriages aside) were ended with abortion.
That’s nearly a fifth of all pregnancies. When you stop to think about just how many lives are affected by abortion, it makes you wonder- how are we caring for these women?
The lack of care surrounding abortion comes from a lack of conversation, knowledge, and understanding. Before you can understand how to care for yourself after abortion, you need to have an understanding of the changes that your body underwent.
Pregnancy, no matter the outcome, creates a hormonal shift and cascade within the body. While the human body is resilient and bounces back, there are certain things you can do to support yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally throughout the process.
While most providers will mandate that you have someone else there to drive you home after your procedure, it’s important to try to find someone who can not only provide a ride home, but also any emotional support you may need.
Whether that be a partner, a relative, a friend, or coworker- try to communicate to them beforehand that you may be in a vulnerable state, and all you are asking for is someone to hold that space for you.
Some abortion clinics will have someone that essentially plays the role of a doula. Typically a doula is someone that supports women through childbirth, but they are also there throughout any big life transition- including abortion. Remember that this person, as well as your provider, are there to help you, and give you someone to lean on.
Another aspect of supporting yourself emotionally, is recognizing your right to choose language that feels appropriate to you. Some people may not resonate with the word abortion, so they choose to use other terms like termination or pregnancy release.
Others may avoid the words pregnant, life, baby, and even fetus. This choice around language gives people the chance to create their own experience, and take their power back in ways they may have lost it.
The physiological changes that one goes through after pregnancy, and abortion, can affect people in many different ways. Immediately after your procedure, follow your healthcare providers instructions. They will most likely advise you to go home and rest.
Heat packs, a relaxing bath (specifically for the pill abortion), and gentle abdominal massage can all help to alleviate discomfort. There are many natural and herbal supplements that you can take as a way to ease your body through the changes it is going through.
Oral homeopathic Arnica, Afterease Tincture, and Bach Rescue Remedy are all commonly available at many health food stores, as well as online. These three gentle options help with physical healing, especially when it comes to soreness, bleeding, and other mild discomforts you may be experiencing.
After abortion, the body experiences a drop in Oxytocin “the love hormone”. This hormonal adjustment, as well as changing levels of progesterin, and estrogen, may result in a form of “postpartum depression”.
While this isn’t exactly common, it is normal, and may very well be your body’s physiological response after choosing to end a pregnancy. It can take several weeks for these hormones to regulate. Take as much time as you need in processing this experience, as your body will take time to adjust as well.
Acupuncture and herbalism- two different tools utilized by Chinese Medicine practitioners- are incredibly effective means of helping regulate the Chi, or life force within the body. Try finding an acupuncturist in your area that will help to return your body to a state of equilibrium after an abortion.
Leave Room For Rest
You just went through a huge shift in every sense of the word. Give yourself time to rest and rely on the activities that you know bring you comfort. Draw on the tools you already have- whether that be art, time in nature, meditation, cooking, or simply taking a nap.
Now is the time to utilize whatever self-care tools you have in your belt that you know you can rely on for relief.
Honor Your Experience
Any reason you choose to get an abortion is ok, and you don’t need to justify it to anyone. Whether it be out of fear, for financial reasons, because you feel unsupported, or you just weren’t ready.
However you may be feeling, recognize that it is your experience, and yours alone. That means that you can process it and relate to it in whatever way feels natural to you. It’s ok to feel like you need to mourn, to grieve, to be upset.
It’s also totally ok to not feel any remorse, and maybe just a sense of relief. If you wish to honor your loss or transition, you may also create a ceremony around it.
If you or someone you know is in the process of getting or healing from an abortion, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support.
If you do not have anyone close to you to reach out to, see if there is an abortion hotline in your area so that you can speak to a professional. You are not alone in this journey. Any and all feelings you are experiencing are valid and worthy.
The choices that you make to care for your body and your life are yours and yours alone. As hard as it can be, do not let others’ opinions dissuade or shame you for the choices you make.
Abortion is a fundamental right, and one that should be honored.
Natasha (she/her) is a full-spectrum doula and health+wellness copywriter. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, health, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more education and empowerment. You can connect with Natasha on IG @natasha.s.weiss.