To help with the cramping, which generally mimics period cramps but can vary in severity based on the person, stick to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen instead of drugs like aspirin, which can thin your blood and make you bleed more. You can also try a heating pad, hot water bottle, or Aebi’s cheap DIY option: Heat up some dry rice in the microwave (30-second intervals for three minutes or less), then put it into a sock to form a warm little pouch.
Even with all this information in mind, it’s good to talk to your doctor about what kind of bleeding and cramping you can expect, along with any red flags that should get your attention.
8. Go into the waiting room with tools to distract yourself if you think you’ll need or want them.
Depending on your specific clinic, you may be in the waiting room for hours before your surgical procedure or appointment to begin a medical abortion, Dr. Imershein says. You may also need to wait around for any pain medication to kick in or hang out afterward while it wears off and you rest.
“Make sure that you have things to keep occupied,” Aebi says, whether that’s an engrossing true-crime podcast or a calming coloring book. This is also where having a friend on hand may help, which brings us to our next point.
9. Consider bringing along a supportive companion.
Some health centers will require you to bring someone who can take you home after a surgical abortion, Dr. Dean says. This depends on the type of anesthesia you’ll be having. (If it’s general, you’ll definitely need an escort.) If that’s not the case for you, or if you’re doing an at-home medical abortion, having someone at your side is your decision.
If you do choose to have company, pick someone whose presence will lower any potential anxiety, Aebi says: “Make sure that they’re somebody who’s calm and centering and supportive of the decision that you’re making.” If you can’t find the right companion, there are other options. Some clinics have abortion doulas who are there to support you before, possibly during, and after the experience. Depending on where you live, Dr. Imershein adds, an abortion funding organization may be able to connect you with somebody who can accompany you for however much of the procedure your clinic will permit. Ask your health center for guidance, or check out Radical Doula’s list of local volunteer organizations. Also, some NNAF member organizations provide abortion doula services.
Whether you’re with a loved one or an abortion doula, keep in mind that they may not be allowed in the procedure or recovery room, Dr. Imershein says. Find out your health center’s policy beforehand so you’re not caught off guard.
A few states with abortion bans (like Alabama and Texas) are drafting legislation that could potentially affect anyone who helps a person get an abortion. It’s yet to be seen how this could play out, but if you live in a state with an abortion ban, especially one where any people who help others get an abortion may potentially be at some legal risk, your companion might want to research local laws with you in order to make an informed decision.
10. Be direct with your companion about what you need from them.
Do you require a ride to and from the health center? Do you want someone to keep you distracted in the waiting room? Lie in bed and watch movies with you while you recover from the procedure or wait for the medication to work? Run to the pharmacy? Rub your back? Figure this out to the extent you can in advance and let them know.
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