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Abortion Complications: When to Call a Doctor

Abortion is extremely safe, especially compared to the alternative. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the wealthy world, and the rate is growing. In Georgia, for example, abortion is 70.3 times safer than giving birth for white women, and 111 times safer for Black women. Abortion clinics are medical facilities, and abortion doctors are highly skilled providers who have committed their lives to reproductive health care. Consequently, the abortion complication rate is extremely rare. In a study of almost 55,000 abortions, just 2 percent resulted in complications, almost all of which were minor. Less than a quarter of a percent caused major complications.

At least a third of pregnancies cause complications. The real crisis in maternity care is that we are doing nothing to stem the tide of pregnancy-related deaths. When women can’t get abortions, they die. When they can, an abortion can be life-saving. Nevertheless, every medical procedure carries some risk of complications. Here’s what to look for, and when to call a doctor.

Minor Complications: Call Your Doctor

The following symptoms may indicate that you have a minor or non-emergency complication after an abortion. Contact the abortion clinic where you had your abortion or seek follow-up care with your midwife or doctor:

  • Bleeding that lasts longer than 2 weeks.
  • Bleeding that disappears for a day or more, and then returns as heavy bleeding, not spotting.
  • No period within 6 weeks of the procedure.
  • Producing breast milk after the procedure.
  • Experiencing intense emotions such as sadness, anxiety, or mood swings.

Major Complications: Seek Immediate Care

Call the abortion clinic right away and give clear, specific details about your symptoms if:

  • You soak through more than two pads an hour, or pass blood clots larger than a golf ball.
  • Your bleeding stops, then you begin passing large clots.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have bad-smelling discharge from the vagina.
  • Your stomach feels tender to the touch.
  • You have thoughts of suicide or harming yourself.

Life-Threatening Complications: Go to the Emergency Room

Almost no one dies from abortion, even when they have severe complications. Seeking prompt medical care can save your life. Go to the emergency room if:

  • You have symptoms of major complications and cannot get a medical provider from the abortion clinic on the phone.
  • You have severe bleeding–blood that is pouring out of you and soaking multiple pads an hour.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or lose consciousness and are bleeding heavily.
  • You have intense stomach pain and are passing large blood clots.
  • You feel very weak, your heart is racing, or your pulse is very low.
  • You have new high or low blood pressure along with other symptoms, such as bleeding or intense pain.

Choosing the right abortion clinic can greatly reduce your risk of serious abortion complications. Find a compassionate, quality abortion clinic in your state here.

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