Medical or Surgical? Which do I choose?

by Jane

February 7, 2022


If you are having trouble deciding between a medical or surgical abortion my story may helpful to you. I have experienced two abortions – one medical and one surgical. Before you read on please remember that every body is different, every pregnancy is different and my story may not look like yours. I encourage you to do what feels best for you.

Pregnancy 1 – My first pregnancy occurred when I was 24. I won’t go into many details but as soon as I saw the positive pregnancy test I knew I wanted an abortion. I was not ready for the commitment of a child or the commitment of being ‘tied’ to that child’s father for life. For this pregnancy I decided to do a medical abortion. Reasoning? I was only a little over 6 weeks in gestation and all the research I did led me to believe that the abortion pill was less invasive ‘more natural’ than surgical. I imagined that the pain would be manageable – nothing more than strong period cramps.

This turned out not to be my experience. The pain for me was agonizing. I also took the two pain pills the doctor gave me beforehand which didn’t seem to help. In reflection – the worst parts happened within minutes after dissolving the pills in my gums and went on for about 4 hours. I bled and passed quite a few clots. I could not get comfortable. I was thrashing around, throwing up, and having cold sweats. I was crying for ‘my mom’ in ways I haven’t since I was a child. It was brutal and not ‘manageable’ in my experience. I have never been in labor but would imagine that is what labor feels like. The other downside was the downtime – I was ‘down and out’ for 2 days with cramping and bleeding.

Before you panic! Again, this was just my experience and you do get ‘through it’. Some positives to having a medical abortion. It was less invasive and I got to labor at home with the comfort of my partner around. You also get to make the best choice of comfortability for you – i.e. where to lay, how to ‘labor’, you can cry and not feel embarrassed, watch movies, bath (not recommended by doctors for risk of infection but I hopped in the tub to ease pain – guilty!)

Pregnancy 2 – My second pregnancy occurred when I was 26 (with the same partner as pregnancy 1) and I got pregnant with an IUD. Making the choice to have an abortion this time around was much more difficult. We had been together for two years and had the ‘means’ to be parents if we wanted to. Ultimately, again I just felt for me it wasn’t the right time. I had just landed the job of my dreams, which required travel and long hours. I wanted something different for my life and a child wasn’t it right now.

When faced with the decision of medical or surgical I was torn. I knew how painful medical was for me having been through it but felt like it was my only option given how early I was – 5.5 weeks gestation.

After talking with my doctor he assured me that he could complete a surgical procedure that early in gestation with no complications (no remaining tissue in utero or infection) and because I live in TX with the most recent ‘heartbeat’ laws it was recommended.

I made a quick decision on the day of my appointment and decided to go the surgical route. I was led by blind faith and fear of going through the medical pain again. At least this pain would be quick, right? For this procedure I had to go in before work and go straight to work after procedure. (Crazy, I know! I couldn’t get the day off and was just ‘surviving’ at this point.)

Okay, so it’s procedure time. I chose to go the unmedicated route because again I had to drive and go to work afterwards. They gave me some Ibuprofen, antibiotics, and medicine to dilate my uterus. I waited in the waiting room for 30 minutes and felt no pain – I was surprisingly very calm at this point. When they called me back to the procedure room I started to get very nervous. They have you undress from the waist down and it gets very ‘real’ at that point. I do remember feeling very exposed and vulnerable which I think is normal. It’s never fun to be exposed like that at a doctors office!

The doctor got started right away. I had two nurses on either side of me holding my hands and they were angels – having the comfort of people beside you really helps. They kept reassuring me I was doing great, I didn’t have to apologize, and it was okay.

In the beginning it was just like a pap. He inserted the speculum and gave me 2 lidocaine shots to numb the cervix. I remember reading posts like this online being so scared for the shots that they were going to burn and hurt. For me, I felt nothing. Literally nothing. He let me know he was done with the shots but I was still waiting for the pain that never came.

What did hurt was the suction portion. It felt like intense cramping and pinching on your insides. I was shaking a little and he would say ’10 more seconds’ and I would count down from 10.. and then he would say ’10 more seconds again’ and I would count down some more. In total it did take about 20 seconds of agony. But then it was over – anyone can survive 20 seconds!

After that they brought me to a recovery room – I sat in a big comfy chair. They gave me a heating pad, some water, snacks. I was all padded up in stretchy comfortable underwear and experienced painful cramps for about 10 minutes. I breathed through them and thought about my medical abortion and how this pain was so similar. It scared me for a second that the cramps wouldn’t go away but everyone kept assuring me that they would and to my surprise they did within 10 minutes!

After that, I hopped in my car and drove away (the only thing bringing me down was protestors holding up ‘God Forgives’ signs) Which I really didn’t appreciate it and do not agree with… but another topic for another day.

I went to work immediately after, had bleeding less than one pad (similar to the last day of your period). Honestly felt perfectly fine – and felt perfectly fine on the days to follow. No more bleeding or agonizing cramping.

I am still so shocked today at the night and day experience I had with medical vs. surgical. In my experience, surgical was definitely the better of the two – by far! I would recommended it over medical to anyone that asked.

Do you research. Read others stories. I encourage others to share if they have different experiences or similar!

Important Reminder:

I am with you, I stand by you. You do not have to feel ashamed or worthless or guilty. You are not a bad person. You are stronger than you know and are worthy of all the love in the world.

You will get through this. I am so proud of you.

Thanks for reading and be well!



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