What is a successful abortion and how do you know if you’ve had one?

A medical abortion is successful when the pregnancy stops developing and there is no need for additional medical care. Research has shown that 99.5 % of the women who do a medical abortion in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy with Mifepristone and Misoprostol will have an abortion that ends the pregnancy. Only 3% of women will need additional medical care. In 97% of abortions, women’s bodies will eliminate all the remains naturally and without any other medical intervention. It is important that you understand that an abortion is a process. It takes time for the uterus to empty and for the abortion to be complete. It is normal for the bleeding and clotting to continue for 1-3 weeks longer; every individual’s body is different.

If you have extreme pain, prolonged heavy bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge, or fever, it might be a sign that you have a complication and should seek medical attention. You should have an ultrasound after taking the medicines if you have any doubts about whether the abortion has been successful.

Many women can tell when the abortion is successful. They feel the symptoms of pregnancy (nausea, tender breasts, need to urinate) going away or are aware that the embryo passed.  By having an ultrasound, you can learn whether the medicines have worked and if your pregnancy has ended within a few days after the abortion.  An early ultrasound will tell you if the pregnancy has ended, but it is best to wait for an ultrasound for 10 days after using Mifepristone, as only 23% of abortions are fully complete after 7 days.

The urine home pregnancy test can be done only 3 weeks after taking the medicines, because before 3 weeks, the pregnancy hormones are still in your body and the test might show an unreliable, falsely positive result. Your body might need several days or weeks (until your next menstrual period) to expel the tissue and blood completely. The ultrasound will show what is still in the uterus. Some medical professionals will recommend a vacuum aspiration, but if you have no pain, fever, or signs of infection, it is better to wait and let your body empty naturally.  A surgical treatment is an invasive procedure that involves risks.

More information:

Research has shown that women often correctly assess whether their medical abortions are complete or not, especially with protocols that include Mifepristone. Research comparing clinical follow up and self-assessment of outcome after medical abortion has found that self-assessment was non-inferior to routine follow-up and could therefore save resources.