Post-abortion care simply isn't talked about enough. After terminating a pregnancy, you may be left with both physical and emotional healing to do. Side effects of these procedures can vary vastly depending on whether you went the medical or surgical route, as well as how your own unique body responds. All that said, you may be left wondering when you can have sex again after an abortion. Fortunately, I spoke with Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, an OBGYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital and clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine, and Dr. Pari Ghodsi, a Los Angeles-based OBGYN, to find out.
While abortions that are performed at a clinic under the guidance and care of a licensed medical professional are considered safe with few complications, it is not uncommon to experience some side effects — such as abdominal cramps, vaginal bleeding and clotting, sore breasts, nausea, and fatigue. Since experts say that having intercourse too soon could lead to an infection of the uterus, it's important to pay attention to what your body is telling you.
According to Dr. Minkin, most providers will advise waiting two to four weeks before having sex — but she says it's best to ask your doctor for their specific recommendation. There are two types of abortions — taking the pill (known as a medical abortion) and undergoing a surgical abortion. Dr. Ghodsi agrees that it's typically safe to have sex again two weeks after undergoing either of these. However, she adds that one of the best markers you can use is paying attention to when you stop bleeding. So, if you're still experiencing bleeding — even light spotting — two weeks in, it's best to wait a little bit longer. However, if your bleeding stops sooner than that, Dr. Ghodsi still recommends waiting at least the full two weeks.
If you are dealing with significant, heavy bleeding (soaking two maxi pads per hour for two consecutive hours) or having any pain, experts urge checking in with your provider. This may mean you have an infection in the lining of the uterus, which would likely call for antibiotics. Dr. Ghodsi adds that some other signs that you are not ready to have intercourse and should call your doctor include: severe abdominal or back pain, foul-smelling discharge, or a fever above 100.4°F.
It's especially imperative to be mindful of potential warning signs of an infection if you underwent a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure, which is performed to clear the uterine lining after an abortion. According to Dr. Minkin, the cervix is still dilated (opened) after a D&C, which puts it at a higher risk for bacteria from the vagina to climb up into the uterus. Since having sex can expose you to even more bacteria, it's definitely best to wait if you think you might have an infection. Also, if you're having sex with a new partner after your abortion, Dr. Minkin recommends using a condom to protect yourself against infections.
Obviously, there are no cut and dry rules here — the time frame will depend on a number of factors. But experts agree that it's always better to err on the side of caution and wait until you feel 100% ready to get intimate again.
"If you are not sure that you are physically ready, then I recommend contacting a health care provider for a follow-up examination," explains Dr. Ghodsi.
By the way — it's not just about feeling physically prepared to have intercourse. Abortions can be a traumatic experience for some, and it's just as important that you feel like you're in an emotional and mental space to enjoy sex as well. You may want to ask yourself a few questions first, like: Why am I eager to have sex again? Is the desire driven by my own needs, or someone else's? Am I with a sex partner who's sensitive and patient enough to help me to re-discover pleasure after my abortion? Am I still dealing with any psychological distress that I should talk to someone about before getting intimate again?
"Do not rush yourself," says Dr. Ghodsi. "Some women experience feelings of depression, guilt and/or trauma following an abortion. And while some women feel pressure to resume normal activity, including sex, after an abortion, I would recommend taking more time if she needs it. You may also want to reach out to a mental health care provider to discuss your experience."
Both experts point out that since your menstruation cycle returns to normal after having an abortion, it's possible to get pregnant again. That's why it's important to discuss contraception options with your doctor before you begin having sex again — so you can avoid another unwanted pregnancy.
The bottom line? Wait at least two weeks, monitor your symptoms, and when in doubt, consult your doctor. When you do get frisky again, you deserve to feel enjoy every minute of it — and as long as you can be patient and respect your body's limits, you're poised to resume having a fulfilling sex life.
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OBGYN
Dr. Pari Ghodsi, OBGYN