Access to abortion is crucial for maintaining the autonomy of people with uteruses, allowing them to be in full control of their pregnancies. Despite the ongoing onslaught on abortion and reproductive rights, currently pioneered by the overruling of Roe v Wade, abortion has always happened, and will continue to do so. Should you choose to undergo an abortion, you might wonder about the healing after the procedure, and how soon after you’ll be able to have sex again. We’re here to answer that!
What happens to your body when you get an abortion
When it comes to the physical side effects of an abortion, they might differ based on the type of abortion performed. There are two main types: medical and surgical. A medical abortion uses medication to terminate pregnancy of up to 9-10 weeks, usually mifepristone, which blocks the progesterone hormone that makes pregnancy viable, and misoprostol, taken a few days later to help with the emptying of the uterus. When that happens, you experience cramping and bleeding, similar to having a strong period. The heavy bleeding usually subsides after 1-2 days, but it might continue in much lighter form for several weeks.
On the other hand, a surgical abortion involves an operation to terminate the pregnancy. A vacuum or suction aspiration is used up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, and dilatation and evacuation (D&E) after. These two types differ in the strength of suction used, and possible addition of surgical removal of the pregnancy tissue by a doctor. In general, you receive medication that allows the cervix to open, after which dilators are inserted into it in preparation of the surgery. Then, a tube is inserted into the uterus, through the dilated cervix, and a gentle suction is used to empty the uterus of pregnancy tissue.
While these procedures differ in how they are performed, you can expect similar bodily reactions: bleeding, cramping, fever, weakness, nausea. These are a normal part of the abortion process, however, if they persist for too long or are too strong, you should seek a doctor’s help.
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When can you get sexual again?
Quite interestingly, there is no proper medical research on when exactly it is okay to have sex after undergoing an abortion (1). Nevertheless, it is generally agreed that you should wait until the heaviest bleeding and cramping subsides (about 1-2 weeks), not only because the pain and discomfort might make sex harder to enjoy, but also to prevent risk of infection. Since medical abortion does not involve that much bodily intervention, you don’t have to wait as long as if you go through a surgical one, which involves more procedure directly affecting your cervix and uterus. It is important to note that your fertility is restored fairly quickly after an abortion, and therefore it is necessary to use contraception of your choice to prevent another pregnancy.
How Soon After An Abortion Can you Have Oral, Anal and Vaginal Sex?
Of course, there’s more to sex than just vaginal penetration, and all these other sex practices (which there is a plethora of!) are more than okay to engage in after an abortion. Anal and oral sex are perfectly safe in terms of risk of pregnancy (but not in terms of STIs, so it is important to use protection) – though anal sex might feel different or a bit uncomfortable if done soon after the procedure, as the uterus might still be slightly expanded.
Acknowledging the mental aftermath
It’s important to note that there might be more to recover from than just the physical aftermath of an abortion. Even if the abortion is 100% wanted, it can come with an intense emotional toll, which is something that should not disregarded. This psychological state might also influence how you feel in your body, or make your libido drop, but it will eventually pass, so allow yourself to feel all the feels and don’t force yourself into anything you’re not yet mentally ready for.