Topic Tuesday: Will getting an abortion hurt?

The question that I get asked most frequently, multiple times on a daily basis is “Will it hurt?” The answer is both simple and complex.

The short answer is yes. Getting an abortion hurts. But so does having a baby. And so does a vaccine, and so does having an IV placed, and so does getting a Botox injection. Certain pain is necessary. Some women even find the pain to be an important part of the abortion process. Regardless, there is much that your doctor can do to help you get through the pain, both physical and emotional.

Labor pain is an accepted part of our culture, in fact it’s celebrated. “Natural birth” is seen as an emblem of womanhood, a badge of honor.

Women who choose to have an epidural are sometimes looked down upon as weak. But, regardless, it seems to be mostly agreed upon that pain management in labor is a woman’s choice.

When it comes to abortion, our culture is so wrapped up in grappling with a woman’s choice to end a pregnancy, we have forgotten the experience. There is an entire spectrum of pain management during pregnancy termination that no one is talking about.

Some women may be absolutely comfortable with deep breathing. Some of my patients just want to listen to their music and hold my assistant’s hand. Other women want a little sedative to ease their anxiety. Some want some numbing medicine injected into their cervix. Still others want to be totally asleep, unaware of the process, to wake up and have it be all over.

Because of logistical constraints, some women have a surgical termination with anesthesia other than their first choice. They feel that they don’t have the luxury of rescheduling; either because they can’t miss another day of work, they have no driver, or the pregnancy is making them very sick. The surgical termination is very short, usually less than five minutes. Our caring staff hold patients’ hands, take slow deep breaths (in through their noses and out through their mouths). We play music. We make conversation about work, children, home towns. We do everything we can to compassionately complete the procedure and distract from the pain.

And in the end, the most common sentiment is relief. Relief that it is over. And women are strong. Every day I am awed by my patients’ strength and determination to get through what they know in their hearts to be the right choice for them. Painful or not.