Abortion Anesthesia and Pain
“I asked if the abortion would hurt,” the post-abortive caller stated. “They told me I’d be given a “local” and the worst pain I would feel was some cramping. But the pain was horrible and far worse than any menstrual cramps.”
Due to the myriad of emotions involved in an abortion decision, women often do not ask many questions at an abortion clinic. It is difficult to know what questions to ask or understand what each procedure entails physically. Often, the answers they are given may not be accurate as well.
During my own abortion, a staff member led me into the operating theater and helped me up onto the surgical table. She casually stated, “You can hold my hand through this, honey.”
Surprised by her offer, I asked, “Why would I want to hold your hand?”
She matter-of-factly enlightened me, “Because you didn’t pay extra for anesthesia and this is going to hurt.”
My boyfriend and I, like so many other abortion-determined couples, had difficulty raising the money for the abortion, let alone paying extra for anesthesia. I remember hearing the word “local” during the intake process and assumed it would address every part of my body that would experience pain. I didn’t know that my uterus needed a separate form of anesthesia due to the strong suctioning that was part of the abortion.
Obviously, the pain women endure during an abortion varies greatly. To learn more about how abortion clinics present the anesthesia option, we recently surveyed abortion clinic websites and learned these basic truths:
- Only 20% of the websites surveyed featured abortion anesthesia fees on their website. The others offered no information but encouraged visitors to call them for more details.
- Just one clinic offered the following accurate information about the potential for physical pain of a surgical procedure in using only local anesthesia during first-trimester procedures: In this form of anesthesia a local numbing agent is used to block pain receptors in the cervix. It numbs the entrance to the cervix but not the uterus where the vacuum aspiration is taking place.Therefore, it is not totally effective in eliminating pain during the procedure.
- One website featured the additional cost of $120 for IV sedition. They also shared their specific criteria in providing local anesthesia: Local (cervix anesthesia) is not recommended for first time surgical abortion patients since they are wide awake and experience intense pain. Local is often recommended for patients who have experienced abortion in the past. The doctor must determine the patient’s qualification and approve the patient for local anesthesia.
There are two forms of IV sedation typically used in abortion procedures – conscious sedation and general anesthesia. Using these forms of sedation typically increases the cost of the procedure, recovery time and may only be available in clinics where late term abortion procedures are performed.
Abortion costs are higher because each sedation requires the presence of an anesthesia provider and facilities that enable close monitoring of the patient during the abortion and through recovery. Abortion clinicians must be able to manage respiratory arrest and should be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
General anesthesia has risks which include depression of the woman’s reflexes and reduced airway protection. When conscious sedation is performed, drugs are given intravenously. This approach reduces consciousness, so the patient must be monitored closely while the medications are in effect.
Pain is not limited to the surgical procedure. Medical (aka, the abortion pill or medication) abortions also can result in deep physical agony due to a variety of variables.
Medical abortion pain ranges from mild to severe. Pain is caused both by uterus contractions due to the first drug give – prostaglandin – and by the expulsion of the gestational sac that contains the unborn child. Women experience the greatest pain in the first few hours after administration of the first drug, prostaglandin.
Abortion providers relay that pain should decrease after the unborn child has been expelled from the uterus. Pain also increases with pregnancy size. It may be milder in older women and women who have been pregnant before.
Abortion pain isn’t limited to the clinic experience. A frequent source of severe physical pain after abortion is an infection. Pain in these situations is possibly caused by an incomplete abortion where fetal or placental tissue remains in the woman’s body.
Blood clots also cause soreness. If the tissue or clots don’t pass on their own after a medication abortion, the woman may need to endure a second surgical abortion to empty the uterus. Severe pain after an abortion that is related to infection requires careful medical attention, even in the absence of fever.
Physical pain after abortion may also indicate an ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo begins to develop outside of the uterus, most commonly in a fallopian tube. A fetus growing in such a place can stretch and burst the fallopian tube, causing severe pain and bleeding in the abdomen region. An ectopic pregnancy requires immediate medical intervention.
Another source of after abortion pain can be nausea and vomiting. While these are normal symptoms of pregnancy, they may become worse after a medical abortion. Diarrhea can be caused by the action of the prostaglandin used in medical abortion on the intestinal muscle fibers.
Post-abortive women who experience the following symptoms after abortion need to visit an Emergency Room immediately:
- sustained fever,
- severe abdominal pain,
- prolonged heavy bleeding,
The abortion pain I endured in having my uterus vacuumed without pain relief was far worse than childbirth. If you combined the pain I experienced during three childbirth experiences – each completed naturally without an epidural – it would never match the agony I felt physically during my abortion.
The day after my abortion I could clearly see the hand prints of the abortion clinic staff in bruised form on my two upper thighs. These bruises occurred because they had to hold me down forcibly because my body recoiled uncontrollably while enduring the pain of the abortion procedure.
If you are considering abortion, it’s important to visit a pregnancy center first to assure you have accurate and complete information about abortion anesthesia issues. These non-profit organizations provide free medical services as well as detailed abortion clinic information. You can ask questions about this procedure and receive clear answers and abortion information.
If you, or someone you know, has experienced abortion, visit our abortion recovery website. Our team is here to help you heal any traumatic memories of your abortion procedure with God’s help.