why does abortion hurt

Abortion, the termination of a pregnancy, is a decision that many women face for various reasons, such as unintended pregnancy, health concerns, or personal circumstances. While abortion is a safe medical procedure, it can cause both physical and emotional pain for some women. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind the pain associated with abortion and discuss coping strategies for managing this pain.

Physical Pain During Abortion

The physical pain experienced during an abortion depends on the type of procedure and the individual’s pain tolerance. There are two main types of abortion: surgical and medical.

Surgical Abortion

  1. Dilation and Curettage (D&C): This procedure involves dilating the cervix and using a curette to scrape the uterine lining. Women may experience cramping and discomfort during the procedure.
  2. Vacuum Aspiration: A common method for early pregnancies, this procedure uses gentle suction to empty the uterus. Pain levels vary, but cramping is common.
  3. Dilation and Evacuation (D&E): Used for later pregnancies, this procedure involves dilating the cervix and using instruments to remove the fetus and placenta. Women may receive anesthesia to manage pain.

Medical Abortion

  1. Mifepristone and Misoprostol: These medications work together to terminate the pregnancy. Women may experience cramping, bleeding, nausea, and other flu-like symptoms.
  2. Expected physical symptoms: Pain, bleeding, and other side effects are a normal part of the medical abortion process and usually subside within a few days.

Factors affecting pain intensity

  1. Gestational age: Generally, abortions performed later in pregnancy may be more painful due to the larger size of the fetus and the need for more cervical dilation.
  2. Pain tolerance: Each woman’s pain threshold is different, and some may experience more discomfort than others.
  3. Anesthesia and pain management: Pain medication and anesthesia options can help alleviate discomfort during and after the procedure.
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Physical Pain After Abortion

After an abortion, women may experience some physical side effects and potential complications.

Common side effects

  1. Cramping: Mild to moderate cramping is common and can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
  2. Bleeding: Light bleeding or spotting can last for several weeks after the procedure.
  3. Nausea and vomiting: Some women may feel nauseous or experience vomiting, especially after a medical abortion.

Potential complications

  1. Infection: Rarely, an infection may develop, causing fever, chills, and abdominal pain. Prompt treatment with antibiotics is essential.
  2. Incomplete abortion: In some cases, the abortion may be incomplete, requiring additional medical intervention.
  3. Cervical damage: Although rare, instruments used during a surgical abortion may cause damage to the cervix.

Recovery time and pain management Most women recover from an abortion within a few days to a couple of weeks. Over-the-counter pain medications, rest, and gentle exercise can help manage pain and promote healing.

Emotional Pain Associated with Abortion

In addition to physical pain, many women experience emotional distress following an abortion.

Factors contributing to emotional distress

  1. Personal beliefs and values: Women who have strong religious or moral objections to abortion may experience more emotional conflict.
  2. Social stigma: The stigma surrounding abortion can lead to feelings of shame and isolation.
  3. Lack of support: Women who lack support from loved ones or feel pressured into having an abortion may be more vulnerable to emotional pain.

Common emotional responses

  1. Guilt and shame: Some women may feel guilty or ashamed about their decision, especially if it conflicts with their personal values.
  2. Grief and loss: Abortion can trigger feelings of grief and loss, particularly for women who wanted the pregnancy or struggled with the decision.
  3. Depression and anxiety: The stress and hormonal changes associated with abortion can contribute to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
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Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS)

  1. Definition and controversy: PAS is a term used to describe a range of emotional and psychological symptoms that some women experience after an abortion. However, the existence of PAS as a distinct condition is controversial and not recognized by major medical organizations.
  2. Symptoms and duration: Reported symptoms of PAS include depression, anxiety, guilt, regret, and sleep disturbances. The duration of these symptoms varies among individuals.
  3. Treatment options: Counseling, therapy, and support groups can help women cope with the emotional aftermath of an abortion.

Coping with Physical and Emotional Pain

There are several strategies for managing the physical and emotional pain associated with abortion.

Pain management techniques

  1. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate cramping and discomfort.
  2. Relaxation and breathing exercises: Deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and manage pain.
  3. Heat therapy: Applying a heating pad or taking a warm bath can soothe cramps and promote relaxation.

Emotional support

  1. Counseling and therapy: Talking with a mental health professional can provide a safe space to process emotions and develop coping strategies.
  2. Support groups: Joining a support group for women who have had abortions can offer a sense of community and validation.
  3. Talking with trusted friends and family: Sharing feelings with supportive loved ones can help alleviate emotional pain and reduce isolation.

Self-care and healing

  1. Rest and recovery: Allowing the body and mind time to heal is crucial after an abortion. Women should prioritize rest and avoid strenuous activities.
  2. Journaling and expressive writing: Writing about thoughts and feelings can be a cathartic and healing process.
  3. Engaging in hobbies and activities: Participating in enjoyable activities and hobbies can boost mood and provide a sense of normalcy.


Abortion can be a physically and emotionally painful experience for many women. Understanding the reasons behind this pain and knowing how to manage it is essential for women who choose to undergo this procedure. It’s important for women to make informed decisions about abortion and to have access to supportive resources before, during, and after the procedure. Seeking help from healthcare providers, mental health professionals, and trusted loved ones can be crucial in coping with the pain associated with abortion. Remember, prioritizing self-care and allowing time for healing are key to managing both the physical and emotional aspects of abortion.

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Is pain during abortion normal?

Yes, some level of pain and discomfort is normal during an abortion. The intensity of pain varies among individuals and depends on factors such as the type of procedure and gestational age.

How long does pain last after an abortion? 

Most women experience cramping and discomfort for a few days following an abortion. However, some may have mild symptoms that last for several weeks. If pain is severe or persists, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider.

Are there any long-term physical effects of abortion?

When performed by a trained medical professional, abortion is generally safe and does not cause long-term physical health problems. However, in rare cases, complications such as infection or cervical damage may occur.

Is it normal to experience emotional pain after an abortion?

Yes, it’s common for women to experience a range of emotions after an abortion, including grief, guilt, and sadness. These emotions are valid, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel.

Where can I find support for coping with post-abortion pain?

Support is available through various channels, such as counseling services, therapy, support groups, and hotlines. Healthcare providers, mental health professionals, and organizations that offer post-abortion support can provide resources and guidance for coping with both physical and emotional pain.

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