Is Abortion Painful? - How Long does the Pain Last

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Arti Sharma
Written by Charu Shrivastava, last updated on 9 February 2024
Is Abortion Painful? - How Long does the Pain Last

Pregnancy is not always planned. While for some couples, the news of a baby can spark excitement and joy; for others, it may be a discomforting surprise. It’s better to end unwanted pregnancies in a safe manner. Abortion is the legal and safest way to end a pregnancy. Despite the possibility of some pain or cramping during the treatment, the discomfort is typically tolerable.

The pain may differ for every individual. One may not experience pain in the same way as another. The level of discomfort experienced by individuals might vary depending on several factors. If you think abortion is the right option, you must understand what to expect regarding pain level and management. Let’s delve deeper and discuss what you can expect during an abortion and how to manage the pain and deal with its side effects.

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Is abortion painful?

The simple answer is that the level of pain during an abortion is different for everyone. While some women experience pain, others may experience a feeling similar to period cramps or a little discomfort. Several factors can affect the level of pain during an abortion. These factors include:

  1. Overall health
  2. Underlying medical conditions
  3. Level of pain tolerance
  4. How far along is your pregnancy
  5. Stress level and emotions

Besides the factors mentioned above, the type of abortion can also significantly impact what you feel during an abortion. The types of abortion include:

  1. Medical abortion
  2. Surgical abortion

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Medical abortion

Doctors recommend medical abortions up to 11 weeks after your last period. It involves taking two prescription pills, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, to end a pregnancy. Mifepristone stops the pregnancy, while Misoprostol causes uterine contractions to expel the remaining foetal tissue. The tissue may take about four to five hours to pass out from the uterus. 

Usually, you can consume Misoprostol by various methods such as oral, sublingual (under your tongue), buccal (between your cheek and teeth), or vaginal.

Remedies to minimise pain in medical abortion

Since medical abortions cause the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy tissue, pain and cramping are most commonly reported. A medical abortion mostly feels like intense period cramps. However, the amount of pain and cramps vary from woman to woman. 

Most over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can help manage pain and discomfort. The doctor may prescribe medication such as ibuprofen to reduce the risk of cramping. If you experience nausea, they may also prescribe an anti-nausea medication. You must avoid aspirin as it can increase bleeding. Besides medications, you can also follow some home care remedies to relieve pain, such as:

  1. Wear loose-fitting clothes for a day or two.
  2. Take a long shower with warm water.
  3. Place a hot water bottle on your abdomen to reduce cramping.
  4. Do deep breathing exercises.
  5. Ask someone to rub your back gently.

Side-effects of medical abortion

The process of medical abortion can cause vaginal bleeding, similar to heavy periods. You may also pass large menstrual clots for a few days. Furthermore, you will continue experiencing some bleeding and spotting for a couple of weeks after taking the pills. Other side effects of medical abortion may include:

  1. Mild to severe cramping
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting
  4. Headache
  5. Fever
  6. Chills
  7. Diarrhoea

These side effects may last for a day or two. Call your healthcare professional if you experience a fever lasting more than 48 hours and an unpleasant odour from your vagina, as this can signify an infection.

Side effects of medical abortion

Surgical abortion

Dilatation & Curettage (D&C) is a method used in surgical abortion. The doctor examines the pelvis before performing the surgical abortion. They will use a speculum to examine the vagina and cervix.
Your cervix will then be dilated using metal dilators. The remains of the foetal tissues would be suctioned using a gentle suction machine. Then a curettage would be used to scrape further the foetal remains from the uterus. 

Remedies to minimise pain in surgical abortion

Pain during a surgical abortion is different for everyone. While some women may find the procedure a little uncomfortable, others may experience discomfort. Since surgical abortion includes the administration of local or general anaesthesia, you may have little to no pain during the procedure. However, you may experience some cramping for a few days post-procedure. 

The doctor performs a surgical abortion under local or general anaesthesia, which helps block pain and lower anxiety. You can take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to help relieve pain and ease other symptoms after the procedure. Avoid taking aspirin as it may increase post-abortion bleeding. You can also follow some home care methods to feel better after surgical abortion. These include:

  1. Wearing loose-fitting clothes
  2. Placing warm compresses or a hot water bottle on the abdomen for cramp relief
  3. Taking a warm shower

Call your healthcare professional if you experience discomfort or feel unwell even after a few days. 

Side-effects of surgical abortion

Though surgical abortion is done under anaesthesia, it has fewer side effects. Some women can feel stronger cramps than other while some may have few other effects. Some other potential side effects of surgical abortion include:

  1. Chills
  2. Fever
  3. Nausea
  4. Vomiting
  5. Dizziness
  6. Heavy bleeding

Side effects of surgical abortion

Does the embryo experience pain during abortion?

While considering the option of abortion, many women are concerned about whether the embryo experiences any pain during the process. A person experiences pain when a signal from the site of the wound transmits to the brain. Furthermore, humans require brain structures to process those signals. However, according to scientific studies, the structures necessary to process pain do not develop until at least the 20th week of pregnancy. Thus, the embryo does not experience pain during an abortion. 

Emotional Side Effects of an Abortion

There are several reasons why people may choose an abortion. The emotional side effects of having an abortion may be different for everyone. While some women may feel relieved and stress-free after aborting an unintended pregnancy, others may feel depression, guilt, or a sense of loss, even though it was the right decision. Sometimes, there may even be a mixture of feelings involving both relief and guilt. 

You must know that there is no right or wrong about the feelings you experience post-abortion. Having these emotions is normal. But how can you cope with these emotional side effects? Talking to your partner can be an effective way to approach your feelings. Additionally, you may want to consult a healthcare professional if you experience guilt and anxiety interfering with your daily life. They can help you access support groups and talk therapies to process your emotions better. The most important thing is to go for a safe and legal abortion


Both medical and surgical abortions are effective ways of ending a pregnancy. However, every woman experiences it differently. Though medical abortions may cause some pain due to uterine contractions, you can usually manage the pain with over-the-counter pain medications. When undergoing a surgical abortion, you may experience little to no pain due to local or general anaesthesia. But you may experience cramping for a few days after the procedure.

Having an abortion is a personal decision, which may be the ideal option for one person but not for other. Abortion is a big decision that requires personalised advice and care all along the way. Speaking with a healthcare professional (OB-GYN) should be the first step in the process. During your visit, make sure to discuss the following with your doctor:

  1. The pros and cons of medical and surgical abortions
  2. How you need to prepare for the abortion
  3. Potential side effects
  4. Recovery time
  5. Symptoms to look out for

We understand how overwhelming an abortion can get. But fret not! If you have doubts about abortion, contact a HexaHealth expert TODAY! Our team of doctors will provide personalised care assistance at every step of the way, from guidance to after-care and resolve all the queries you may have.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is abortion painful?

Medical Abortions are uncomfortable, much like a period, although moderate painkillers can be pretty safe and helpful in reducing discomfort. There is no pain in surgical abortion as it is performed under anaesthesia. If there are any cramps in the early post-procedure period, moderate painkillers might be administered to treat them.

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Are pills meant for abortion safe?

It's safe to take abortion pills. The consumption of these pills must be at an appropriate gestation time with proper dosage. In the event of ectopic pregnancy and molar pregnancy, one must avoid taking abortion pills.

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Does an abortion cause pain to the embryo?

Many women considering abortion worry about whether the embryo feels pain throughout the procedure. When a signal from the peripheral sensory nerves reaches the brain, a person feels pain. Additionally, processing those impulses requires brain structures in humans. However, the structures needed to process pain in the foetus don't begin to form until at least the 20th week of pregnancy, according to scientific studies. Thus, during an abortion, the embryo doesn't feel any pain.

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Can abortion cause any harm to my health?

Both physical and mental health may have an impact after an abortion. Sometimes, an abortion can be emotionally devastating for the woman. The mild side effects of the abortion pills, such as nausea, vomiting, and cramps, only endure for a few hours. The surgical procedure is secure, but mishaps like excessive bleeding and perforation rarely occur. Overall, the procedures of abortion are safe.

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Which abortion is less painful?

Abortions performed surgically don't hurt because they are done under anaesthesia.

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How is abortion done in the sixth week of gestation?

To end a pregnancy, the doctor will prescribe two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone halts the progression of the pregnancy. After consuming misoprostol, uterine contractions help remove any residual foetal tissue. It can take the tissue four to five hours to leave the uterus.

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Is abortion painful at 9 weeks?

If your pregnancy period exceeds nine weeks, doctors advise Dilation and Curettage. For the duration of the procedure, general anaesthesia will be administered to make you sleepy. As a result, you are pain-free during the dilation and curettage procedures. The procedure involves the doctor opening the cervix with small rods called dilators. After that, the pregnant tissue will be removed using forceps and soft suction.

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Is abortion legal now?

According to MTP Amendment Act 2021, abortion is now permitted until 24 weeks of pregnancy. It is permitted for married and unmarried women without requiring consent from anyone. 

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Can abortion go wrong with abortion pills?

Yes. There are slight chances that abortion pills won't work and the pregnancy will continue. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a doctor while taking abortion pills.

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Can an abortion make a woman infertile?

Fertility is unaffected by pill abortion. Hormones and ovaries are unaffected by abortion pills. Multiple surgical abortions may have an impact on fertility. Dilatation and Curettage are required for pregnancies that are longer than nine weeks. Endometrial lining may become injured and may have an impact on future fertility if Dilatation and Curettage is performed repeatedly.

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Will my abortion have any psychological effects on me?

Following an abortion, patients experience a wide range of emotions. It heavily depends on your psychological makeup, your decision-making process, and the support of your loved ones and friends. After having an abortion, the majority of women report feeling relieved. Research has demonstrated that having an abortion has no long-term detrimental psychological effects.

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What if I continue to feel baby in the womb?

Nausea, vomiting, and fatigue associated with pregnancy typically go away in three days. It can take seven to ten days for breast discomfort to go away. After your surgery, your breasts may feel stiff and painful and leak fluid. After three to four days of swelling, your breasts will return to normal. You'll feel more at ease if you put on a supportive bra and place cool ice packs on your breasts.

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How soon may I become pregnant after having an abortion?

As soon as you ovulate once more, which will be 12 to 16 days before your next period, you will be able to become pregnant. It indicates that you can become pregnant again a few days after having an abortion.

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Does depression follow an abortion?

Yes, occasionally, having an abortion can cause depression, especially if the patient may have wanted the pregnancy but cannot carry it out for various reasons, including those related to their own social, financial, or physical well-being.

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Is abortion pain like labor pain?

The second pill of the abortion pill process starts labour contractions so that the remains of the foetal tissue and uterine lining can be removed. It can take up to five hours to complete this procedure, and because contractions are similar to those during delivery are present, it is typically like labour pains.

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Updated on : 9 February 2024


Dr. Arti Sharma

Dr. Arti Sharma

MBBS, DNB Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Diploma In Cosmetic Gynaecology

8 Years Experience

Dr Arti Sharma is a well-known Obstetrician and Cosmetic Gynaecologist currently associated with Aesthetica Veda in Bengaluru. She has 8 years of experience in Obstetrics and Cosmetic Gynaecology and worked as an expert Obstetrician...View More


Charu Shrivastava

Charu Shrivastava

BSc. Biotechnology I MDU and MSc in Medical Biochemistry (HIMSR, Jamia Hamdard)

2 Years Experience

Skilled in SEO and passionate about creating informative and engaging medical content. Her proofreading and content writing for medical websites is impressive. She creates informative and engaging content that educ...View More

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