Abortions are low risk medical procedures that end pregnancies. It is typical to experience bleeding right after having an abortion, but a person’s first period will usually occur several weeks later.

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This article discusses what people can expect to happen to their periods after an abortion. Read on to learn how medical and surgical abortions affect the menstrual cycle.

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that secured a person’s constitutional right to an abortion.

This means that individual states are now able to decide their own abortion laws. As a result, many states will ban or severely restrict abortion access.

The information in this article was accurate and up to date at the time of publication, but the facts may have changed since. Anyone looking to learn more about their legal rights can message the Repro Legal Helpline via a secure online form or call 844-868-2812.

A person will usually have their next period 4–8 weeks after having an abortion. The abortion empties the uterus, restarting the menstrual cycle.

The start date of an individual’s next period will depend on whether they are using birth control and, if so, which type.

If a person’s periods do not start within 8 weeks of having an abortion, they should speak with their doctor.

Many people experience some bleeding after having an abortion. Doctors call this postabortion bleeding. It may be a good idea to use pads after an abortion to track how much blood they have lost.

The two main types of abortion are medical and surgical. Here, we discuss these types of abortion and the bleeding people may experience afterward.

Bleeding after a medical abortion

A medical abortion is when the doctor gives a person abortion pills to end the pregnancy. This type of abortion is available in the first 11 weeks of pregnancy.

During a medical abortion, the doctor prescribes two pills: mifepristone, to stop the pregnancy from further developing, and misoprostol, to trigger the uterus to expel the pregnancy tissue.

Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, forcing the pregnancy tissue to pass through the vagina. This treatment results in bleeding, which can be similar to having a heavy period. Some people experience heavier bleeding than others, and it may contain large blood clots.

A person may then experience spotting or light bleeding for up to 2 weeks after the pregnancy tissue passes.

Bleeding after a surgical abortion

Surgical abortions typically take place after week 10 of pregnancy, in the second trimester. There are two types of surgical abortion. The first is vacuum aspiration, which involves removing the pregnancy using suction. The second is dilation and evacuation, which involves dilating the cervix with forceps and removing the pregnancy with suction.

Doctors usually use vacuum aspiration up to around 14–16 weeks after a person’s last period, according to the advocacy group Planned Parenthood. After a longer time, they will generally recommend dilation and evacuation.

Surgical abortions can also cause postabortion bleeding, which may be similar to a regular period. Bleeding after a surgical abortion usually lasts around 1–2 weeks, and some people may experience spotting up until their next period.

Some birth control methods may affect the regularity of periods after an abortion. If a person typically has irregular periods, they may continue to experience these after an abortion.

Having an abortion can lead to emotional stress, which may also affect someone’s menstrual cycle. Experiencing stress can change the regularity of periods.

If someone has irregular periods after an abortion and did not previously, they should speak with their doctor.

After a surgical abortion, a person’s first period may be shorter than usual. The abortion procedure fully empties the uterus, so there is less tissue to expel, which can result in a lighter period.

A person’s first period may be longer than usual following a medical abortion because the treatment uses hormones that may impact cycle length. This period can also be heavier as the body may have additional tissue to expel after the procedure.

Using pads during the first period after an abortion allows a person to monitor the amount of blood they lose.

The second period after an abortion is likely to return to how an individual’s periods were before.

That said, some people may find that it takes two or three cycles for their periods to regulate. If this does not happen, they should speak with their doctor.

People can start using birth control straight after an abortion. If they want to use an intrauterine device (IUD), they can ask a healthcare professional to fit one during the same appointment as the abortion.

IUDs are an effective form of birth control. Both hormone-free copper IUDs and hormonal-plastic IUDs are available.

The advantage of copper IUDs is that they do not affect mood but may cause heavier periods.

Hormonal IUDs may lighten periods, but as with all hormonal contraception, they may affect mood.

Condoms offer a reliable hormone-free contraception method that does not require surgery.

Which contraception method to use is a personal choice, and different options work for different people.

If a person experiences very heavy bleeding after an abortion or pain that is not manageable with over-the-counter pain medication, they should speak with their doctor.

Blood clots up to the size of a lemon are typical during postabortion bleeding. If a person experiences any blood clots larger than this, they should speak with a doctor.

Symptoms that may include dizziness, sweating, and nausea during or after an abortion are typical. However, people who feel very faint or have a high temperature should consult their doctor.

If a person experiences any concerning symptoms, they can speak with a doctor for advice and reassurance.

Abortions lead to the menstrual cycle restarting. Most people get their period 4–8 weeks after an abortion.

The first periods after a medical abortion may be heavier and longer than before, while the first period after a surgical abortion may be shorter and lighter.

If a person’s periods do not start 8 weeks after an abortion or return to regular after 3 months, they should speak with their doctor.

Postabortion bleeding is typical. If this is very heavy, continues for more than 2 weeks, or contains blood clots larger than a lemon, an individual should speak with their doctor.