Q: What are the symptoms of a complication?

Complications after early medical abortions are rare. They include severe bleeding and infection. A person should go to the doctor or hospital if she has any of these symptoms:

  • Severe bleeding  that soaks through more than 2 maxi pads an hour for more than 2 hours in a row.
  • Severe abdominal pain that isn’t relieved with painkillers or continues for 2-3 days.
  • A fever that reaches 102o F at any point, or a fever of over 100o F that lasts more than 24 hours.
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that is an unusual greenish or yellowish color and/or has a strong unpleasant odor. 

Any person who knows that someone used abortion medication to end their own pregnancy might feel obliged to report it, though they are generally not required to do so. Therefore, a person who seeks medical attention may not want to say that they used abortion pills. Instead, they can say that they are having a miscarriage. 

The symptoms and treatment for complications of a miscarriage are the same as those for complications of medical abortion. Miscarriage occurs naturally in 15-20% of all pregnancies, and all American hospitals can treat any complications of miscarriage. There are currently no tests that can identify the medicines in the person’s blood or urine, so there is no way that a clinician can know that a person has taken abortion pills unless the patient discloses it or has the pills on or in their body (mouth or vagina).

It is important to remember that some people in the United States have faced arrest or jail for ending their own pregnancies. Although abortion itself is legal, people who end their own pregnancies may risk unjustified arrest and imprisonment under laws that require abortion pills to be dispensed by licensed health care workers and that criminalize self-induced abortion. These laws vary from state-to-state. In spite of these laws, any person who is experiencing a rare complication from a medication abortion can seek follow-up care, because all clinicians can treat a miscarriage and cannot detect the pills.

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