Abortion Aftercare in Ireland
Every day, around 10 Irish women travel to England for an abortion. Their reasons for terminating their pregnancies all vary but their reason for travelling doesn’t. It’s important that we all know what the deal is because even if you don’t ever have a termination yourself, it’s likely you know somebody who will.
The illegality of abortion at home has consequences even for those women wealthy enough, organised enough and informed enough to travel. It means they have limited opportunity for advice and counselling before they travel abroad for their termination, and little access to support and aftercare when they return home. They carry the emotional burden and the financial cost. Many suffer needless anxiety because, when abortion is unlawful, it can be hard to know facts from myths.
Cramping is normal in the days after an abortion. Use a simple pain killer like ibuprofen or ponstan. Aspirin is not a good idea as it encourages bleeding. It’s nothing to worry about. The cramping is just the uterus contracting back to its normal size.
Fever is a more serious sign and a temperature of above 38C means your friend needs to attend her GP. It may be possible to treat any uterine infection without going to hospital so make sure she attends as soon as possible. Cramping and fever together can be a sign of more serious infection.
Small amounts of bleeding are normal after a termination and this can continue for a few days. Large amounts of bleeding or passing large clots large than golf balls mean your friend needs to attend her GP too.
Most clinics will give antibiotics and pain killers on discharge. These need to be taken as prescribed to prevent infections.
Breast tenderness can occur for up to two weeks. Later abortions can result in milk discharge from the breasts too. Ibuprofen will alleviate tenderness. Cold compresses can also help as well as, strangely, cabbage leaves. Change them every two hours.
To reduce the chances of infection, intercourse should be avoided for 2 weeks afterwards. Tampons shouldn’t be used either. Use sanitary towels instead. Avoid baths and swimming for at least two weeks as well.
It’s important that she takes a few days off following the procedure and avoids strenuous exercise and heavy lifting. Taking a week off for psychological recovery is important. Your friend’s GP will be able to give her a sick note for her employer with a discreet or other reason on it.
If she needs to discuss how she’s feeling afterwards, there are several post-abortion counselling services available here. The clinic may have provided some but a number of sessions with a trained, experienced counsellor is important. However, not every woman does find the experience emotionally difficult.
There is no right or wrong way to feel about having an abortion. Some women don’t find the experience particularly emotionally significant, others do. All responses are totally valid.
We’re not encouraged to discuss abortions, which means there isn’t a standard script for friends of a person going through an abortion looking to help her feel supported and cared for. While this might be a good thing — after all, abortion is a very personal experience requiring personalised support —it also means there are a lot of women who don’t feel equipped to help a friend through what can be a crisis, a sad time, a mild inconvenience, an empowering choice, or all of the above in the same day.