What does abortion do to your body

Termination of pregnancy: "Step by step it conquers the body and the psyche"

One only feels a foreign body that should be removed. The other thinks after the termination: That was murder. Three women tell what it's like to terminate a pregnancy.

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The legal basis of abortions is currently being discussed again in the Bundestag. We are therefore dedicating a focus to ZEIT ONLINE to this topic.

Sophia wanted to terminate her pregnancy with pills, but they didn't work. Nora describes the pain during her suction. And Carmen compares the abortion with a wisdom tooth operation, the growing child in her body with a parasite.

When we started our focus on abortions, we also asked our readers to tell us about their experiences with the topic. We received hundreds of messages. One aspect that women repeatedly described was the physical and psychological experience of an abortion. We reproduce these experiences at this point.

How does an abortion work?

Forms of termination

There are two forms of abortion: instrumental and medicinal. The woman chooses the method herself. One of the deciding factors is whether women want to actively experience the abortion - as is the case when taking the abortion pill.

Drug termination

For drug abortion, women take RU-486 tablets. An abortion pill that contains the active substance mifepristone. In addition, prostaglandin hormones must be taken as tablets or introduced as suppositories. The tablets will induce bleeding. A follow-up appointment will take place after a week or two. During this period, women have to see a doctor up to two times. The follow-up examination will check whether the pregnancy has actually been terminated. This is 96 to 98 percent of the time. If not, an additional instrumental intervention is carried out.

Instrumental termination

Instrumental abortion can be performed with local or general anesthesia. With local anesthesia, the patient is aware of the operation. It can also lead to cramping pain, similar to a very heavy menstrual period. This is not the case with general anesthesia. However, additional risks and consequences can arise that do not occur with local anesthesia. The gentlest instrumental and overall most common method is suction. It can be carried out either on an outpatient or inpatient basis. During a suction, the cervix is ​​widened and a thin cannula is inserted to suction out the pregnancy tissue.

Possible complications

Heavy bleeding may occur in the event of drug termination. It can happen that a hospital stay is necessary as a result, but it is rare. The prostaglandin hormone can also cause pain. Sometimes there is nausea and vomiting.

As with other medical interventions, complications can also arise with instrumental interventions. However, these are rare. For example, women can get rebleeding. Inflammation can also occur. Both are easily treatable, but should be treated quickly so that there are no sequelae. Bleeding that is so severe that women have to be admitted to a clinic rarely occurs. This can happen if the uterus is injured during the procedure.

Some of the experiences described here are exceptional. The women's impressions are subjective. The vast majority of abortions take place without complications - as with any medical procedure, however, it can also happen here. We have selected descriptions that show how intimate and how physically and psychologically stressful an unwanted pregnancy and its termination can be.

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We also asked the sexual medicine specialist and therapist Katharina Rohmert what happens if the patient is aborted, what physical complaints can occur and where they come from. She explains what the women experienced and how common these experiences are. Rohmert gives psychoanalytically oriented counseling and sex medicine consultation hours at Pro Familia. She explains why the physical experiences during an abortion are so different from one another. We have changed the names of the women.

Sophia: "Now it's dying in my stomach"

I took pills to terminate my pregnancy. That meant I had to start the abortion myself. It was terrible to take the pills secretly. Fully aware. For several days. I kept thinking: Now it's dying in my stomach. Secretly. Because I couldn't talk to anyone about it. I remember it took about a week in total. The long-awaited bleeding that was supposed to reject the embryo then came on a Friday afternoon.

Rohmert: "In the case of an abortion with medication, women take three tablets that contain the active ingredient mifepristone. Then a tissue hormone, prostaglandin, has to be taken as a tablet or inserted as a suppository. The first cause the pregnancy to be terminated, and the hormones ensure that Sometimes women prefer to stay in the practice to take the first tablet and wait until the first bleeding begins, or they go for a walk and then come back when they are not in the practice with the other women Especially anxious women decide that way. Others say they prefer to take the tablets in the familiar surroundings at home with their own bathroom because they feel more comfortable there. "

When the bleeding started, I called the doctor in charge because it was so bad. He told me to come back on Monday. On the weekend I drove 200 km to a party to which I was invited. I only went to the toilet there. Every time I saw the clotted blood, I asked myself: has the embryo been rejected? I was so scared and couldn't tell the truth to anyone.

Rohmert: "A drug termination can lead to more bleeding than an instrumental one, because the tissue has to be shed off what was already removed during an operation. The bleeding is similar to a menstrual period, but it is stronger and longer. Most women can do this If women are concerned, it is often a matter of perception. After all, women bleed once a month and know what it is like and what is a lot and what is not. But it can happen that women who are more used to weak periods, which perceive it as much stronger and more unusual than women who bleed a lot anyway, so it is very important that women are informed by their doctor beforehand about what is normal and when they are worried Then you should call the doctor who gave you the pills and get an appointment. "

I was back home on Sunday evening, where I lost consciousness. An ambulance took me to the hospital, where I could finally tell everything. I was told that my hemoglobin was very low because I had lost so much blood. Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood. Because the oxygen level was so low, I passed out. But the embryo had not yet been rejected. Only when I was lying on the operating table, where a scraping was made afterwards, did he leave. I then stayed in the hospital for a few more days.

Rohmert: "Women should see a gynecologist twelve to fourteen days after the abortion. It can happen that he still discovers remains of the mucous membrane, but that is really rare. Women often worry that an abortion might not work. To 96 to 98 Percent it works. This is a very high degree of certainty for medical treatments. It is rare, but it can happen that the hemoglobin value drops sharply due to blood loss. Especially in women who already have a low hemoglobin value. If it drops, it helps it is, to drink a lot. Most of the time it works again. Even with severe blood loss due to the abortion, taking medication or even a blood transfusion is almost never necessary. "