The hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy can affect your weight, even after an abortion.
If you’re planning to have an abortion or have recently had one, you may want to understand more about the potential side effects.
Although some people do not experience them, temporary changes to your body are natural after an abortion. But since every person is different, it’s hard to say which physical side effects may happen to you.
For example, factors like your metabolism and hormone levels can affect whether you have a particular side effect and how intense it is.
From weight changes to aches and pains, read on to find out what’s typical post-abortion and when you may need to seek medical advice.
If you need help finding an abortion clinic, resources such as Planned Parenthood’s database and the National Abortion Federation’s clinic locator can help.
For advice and support with physical symptoms, reach out to a healthcare professional. Exhale and All-Options are there if you need emotional support throughout and after the process.
The hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy can take a few weeks to return to their usual levels after an abortion.
These fluctuations can have an effect on your weight. But so can other things that might occur with an abortion.
Weight loss can occur after an abortion.
“It’s customary to gain some weight with pregnancy, so after there is no longer a pregnancy, weight loss could be a normal or anticipated result,” explains Alan Lindemann, MD, OB-GYN.
Of course, this depends on how many weeks pregnant you were when you had the abortion.
It’s also possible, he says, that nausea associated with the continued presence of pregnancy hormones could result in weight loss.
“The change from pregnant to non-pregnant state allows the body to store less water,” adds Greg Marchand, MD, OB-GYN. “Therefore, you can expect more urination and your body’s water weight to decrease following abortion.”
Any stress you experience can also affect your weight.
If you’re concerned about losing too much weight, consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.
According to Marchand, weight gain after an abortion should not occur due to a physiological response from your body.
But that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible outcome.
For example, the emotional effects of having an abortion may affect your dietary choices, leading to some weight gain. And the hormonal fluctuations that come with pregnancy can make you feel hungrier — a feeling that may not disappear immediately after an abortion.
“As the pregnancy progresses, the nausea is replaced by hunger,” explains Lindemann. “So if the [abortion] is later, there will most likely be weight gain associated with pregnancy, which may continue for 10 to 14 days after the pregnancy hormones disappear and before appetites return to normal.”
As always, reach out to a doctor or other healthcare professional if you notice any significant changes to your weight.
Bloating post-abortion is natural, too.
“Depending on the type of abortion you have, it’s common for a small amount of blood or uterine contents to be expelled through the fallopian tubes,” explains Marchand.
This blood can irritate the bowels and cause you to feel bloated. This feeling is generally temporary, often resolving within a week.
“Walking and staying active can help,” says Marchand.
If you feel bloated and have other symptoms such as a fever, severe cramping, or excessive bleeding, consult a doctor or other healthcare professional as soon as possible. These symptoms could indicate infection or other complications.
Cramping may occur the first day after an abortion is complete, notes Lindemann. Cramps can last for a few days.
Cramping actually helps the uterus return to its usual size. It can be relieved by pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin), resting, and using a hot water bottle or heating pad.
Pain medication typically isn’t needed after the first or second day, says Lindemann.
If you’re experiencing significant abdominal pain or cramping that isn’t getting better, reach out to a doctor or other healthcare professional as soon as possible.
You may notice tenderness or swelling in your breasts or chest after an abortion.
According to Planned Parenthood, this can last for up to 2 weeks post-abortion.
Breasts can also feel firm, and fluid may leak out of them, particularly if you reached a point in your pregnancy where milk was being produced.
Taking pain relief medications may help with these side effects. You can also try applying an ice pack to affected areas and wearing a supportive bra or compression top.
Bleeding is expected after an abortion and can happen on and off for up to a month, potentially turning into yellow or brown-colored discharge.
With medication abortions, most bleeding occurs after taking misoprostol. With surgical abortions, bleeding may not be seen until 3 to 5 days after.
“Depending upon how far along you are, there may be more or less bleeding,” explains Lindemann. But, he adds, you shouldn’t be passing “chunks” of anything. Blood clots, however, may occur.
You may also feel nauseated and tired for a few days after the procedure. You may even vomit.
It’s important to rest and consume plenty of fluids to help your body recover. Take pain medications as needed, following directions from your clinician or the label.
Marchand advises being mindful of fever or worsening tenderness in the area of your uterus.
“Both of these symptoms should be seen by a doctor if they present as they can be signs of complications related to your abortion,” explains Marchand.
According to Lindemann, you should also consult with a doctor or go to the emergency room if you have:
- bloating that’s getting worse every day and is still present after 7 to 10 days
- passed clots larger in size than a lemon
- bleeding that lasts for more than 10 days
- constipation that doesn’t resolve
- symptoms of a urinary tract infection, such as a burning sensation or urgent need to urinate
Heavy bleeding — soaking two or more maxi sanitary pads in an hour for 2 hours straight — and pus-like discharge with a strong odor are signs you should contact a healthcare professional, too.
Finally, if you still feel pregnant 2 weeks after your abortion or did not experience bleeding after a medical abortion, reach out to your doctor or other healthcare professional.
It’s natural to experience some level of bleeding, cramping, and bloating after an abortion. But these should only be temporary. If they don’t resolve or seem to worsen, contact a doctor or other healthcare professional.
As for weight loss and weight gain, these are often associated with the pregnancy itself and the hormonal changes that occur during and after having an abortion.
Reach out to a doctor for concerns about any significant weight changes.
Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.