At carafem, we regularly hear about a whole bunch of feelings. It kind of comes with the territory; talking about sex and contraception, relationships between men and women, and making complex health decisions. These conversations happen all the time, and we always have a supportive ear and a box of tissues nearby in case we need them. When a woman comes to us with an unintentional pregnancy, we do everything we can to provide her with support and accurate information she can trust.
But what about the people who are with the person getting the abortion? We see moms and sisters in our office, along with best friends, boyfriends, husbands and even grandparents who are there to support this important woman in their lives. These people aren’t having the abortion, but they’re in the health center and oftentimes need information just as much as the person getting the abortion does. These support people are there for moral support, and play an important role in making the abortion experience better for the woman they’re with.
So what do abortion companions need to know? We stepped out of the consultation room and into the waiting room to find out.
1) What does this involve? What happens here in the center? What happens at home?
Medication abortion is a process, not a procedure. carafem provides a series of pills – one set taken in the health center while the woman is still with our medical staff, and the second set at home. The time spent at the health center is mostly one-on-one discussion and education with a clinician—not at all scary or invasive. Her abortion starts at the center, but it will not be complete until she finishes the second medication. We work with each woman to decide how and when to take this second dose at home. They may need you for this part! There will be some cramping and bleeding, a sign that the medication is working. There can be other effects of the medication that may cause her to need some time to relax and let the medicine work without a lot of interruptions or unnecessary responsibilities. This combination of pills – mifepristone and misoprostol – work together to end a pregnancy without invasive surgery. To learn more about the process of medication abortion, please visit our page on the abortion pill.
2) How long will this take?
The whole appointment at carafem should last about an hour. The first part of the appointment is just between the woman and her clinician, but then during the second part you may be able to join. (Our FAQ page goes into more detail about what an appointment with carafem is like.) After taking the second medication, cramping and bleeding will begin within a few hours, and some women experience feeling sick to their stomach. carafem provides medications that can help with these unpleasant symptoms, and most women are done with this process within a few hours to a day. Even when the abortion is complete, it is not uncommon for women to bleed off and on for up to several weeks after having a medication abortion. Most women get their next period within about 4 to 6 weeks after completing their abortion.
3) Will she experience any pain?
It’s possible that the woman will have some pain during her abortion. Women report a wide variety of experiences – some say it’s just like having a period, other’s say the cramping is much more severe. No worries, though – during the appointment, we will prescribe painkillers and other medications that she can take to minimize these effects. Pay attention to what your companion is going through and ask what she needs—a heat pack, lots of fluids, back rubs, movies, and other comforts can be very helpful and deeply appreciated.
4) How effective is this?
Medication abortion is an extremely safe and effective procedure! There’s lots of research and many years of experience to support the medication abortion protocol that carafem uses. We’re proud to say that our clients report feeling very well cared for and prepared. (Check out what some of our clients have to say.)
5) Can she get pregnant again?
Yes! Women can get pregnant very quickly after a medication abortion, as soon as two weeks after the procedure if she doesn’t use birth control. To assist women in their reproductive health goals, carafem offers a variety of contraceptive methods, most of which can be started the same day as her appointment. (For more information, please visit our page on birth control options!)
The fact that you’re educating yourself and looking for resources shows your commitment to the woman in your life who is considering (or may have already had) an abortion. Facing an unintentional pregnancy can be disruptive and somewhat scary. On behalf of the women we serve, thank you for standing with her!
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help for yourself – organizations like Exhale Pro-Voice have male and female support staff from a variety of spiritual and cultural backgrounds who are happy to talk with and support you as you process your own thoughts and feelings concerning abortion and your relationship with the woman who chose it. And, of course, we’re always here for you, too! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, anytime.
— carafem (@carafem) August 20, 2015