Safe and effective abortion self-care

An illustration of abortion methods

One in every four pregnancies around the world ends in abortion, and every reason you have for yours is personal to you. You should always be the one in control of your body, without having to justify your choices. 

We understand abortion self-care as the right of women and girls to lead, in part or entirely, their abortion process, with or without support from healthcare providers. Abortion outside the medical setting is increasingly seen as an overall safe, effective, and wanted way to end a pregnancy. 

Abortion self-care usually includes the self-administration of medical abortion but could also mean self-management of other aspects of the abortion process, such as the post-abortion care. It can also empower you to decide if you want to involve others in your decision and throughout the process.  

Surgical or medical abortion?

If you choose not to continue a pregnancy, it is paramount for you to do so in a safe environment using safe methods, and you should feel informed and supported while doing so. There are two types of abortion available – surgical and medical. A healthcare professional can help you determine which method best fits your circumstance and by assessing gestational age. 

Surgical abortion is performed by a trained healthcare professional with a manual or electrical vacuum device. Depending on the gestational period, the entire procedure lasts from 5 to 30 minutes. This option cannot be self-managed at home.

Medical abortion is a process that uses pills to terminate a pregnancy usually within the first 12 weeks of gestation and may be self-managed in some cases. It consists of either:

  • taking a combination of two types of medication called mifepristone and misoprostol (the most effective method) or
  • taking one dose or repeated doses of misoprostol – in places where mifepristone is not available

Having a medical abortion may feel like a heavy and crampy period, and some side effects might include vomiting, tiredness, headache, fever and chills. You can ease your discomfort by taking ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs before and during the process and a hot bath or shower can also help. 

You can ask for support from someone you trust, such as a partner, family member, friend or healthcare provider. It is always helpful to have accurate information and instructions with you every step of the way. It’s important to have an emergency plan in place in case of any potential complications.

The process may take up to two weeks to complete, but many women feel fine to return to their daily routines between 24 and 48 hours. While not essential it is recommended to see a healthcare professional two weeks after the procedure to confirm if the process was successful and discuss your contraceptive options. 

Watch: what is medical abortion

Watch: what is surgical abortion

Why self-manage a medical abortion?  

With the increasing access to highly sensitive pregnancy tests and availability of simple, safe, highly effective abortion pills (misoprostol alone or mifepristone and misoprostol combined), you have the option of safely and effectively ending a pregnancy with or without the involvement of a healthcare provider.

For various reasons, you may not want or be able to access a healthcare facility. We know that in some countries or in certain contexts, abortion may be a sensitive topic. There may be situations where young people, displaced persons, people living with disabilities face barriers such as stigma to seeking abortion information or care. These may be just some of the reasons why you might consider having an abortion outside of a clinic. Abortion is illegal in some countries so be careful while seeking safe abortion care.  

You may have heard about or know people who have used different methods to have an abortion, like drinking herbs and toxic substances, or inserting objects into the uterus to end a pregnancy. These are unsafe abortions – they are very dangerous and must be avoided. Self-managed abortion should be something that you do following verified health information using a safe method. 

Seeking healthcare and assistance from a provider to help you manage a medical abortion in the privacy of your own home can be an empowering way for you to care for your own body and health.

If you cannot find information locally, there are many credible services online, where you can find accurate details on how to self-manage an early abortion. For further information visit:

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