Supporting her through an abortion
It is important to recognise that most people find medical procedures stressful and that abortions are no different. Expect that she might feel a little nervous about having an abortion. While some women may find it straightforward others may feel uncomfortable or scared and could benefit from support and reassurance, particularly if you're her partner, boyfriend or husband.
On the day of the abortion
On the day of an abortion many women appreciate receiving support from partners, parents, or friends. You can show your support by offering to drive her to the clinic, offering to help with expenses, offering to pick her up from the clinic, and helping out with childcare or other domestic tasks while she is recovering following her procedure.
The procedure that occurs on the day can vary from clinic to clinic but most often partners, parents, and support people are not allowed to accompany the woman past the administrative stage. Please understand that this is not for the purpose of excluding you from the process. Clinics are health facilities and making sure that procedural rooms are reserved for patients and staff only is one of the ways they protect the physical and emotional health of their patients.
Support people are encouraged to provide transport and can arrange to be contacted when the woman is ready to be discharged. Clinics have a duty to ensure that a support person is there to take a woman home and stay with her rather than her leaving the clinic and going home alone.
After the abortion: medical aspects
Following the abortion she may experience some cramping similar to period pain. This is quite normal provided the pain is not severe. She may also begin to bleed as her body sheds the lining of the uterus. A doctor should be consulted immediately if she experiences abnormal discharge and/or fever or severe pain. This could be an indication that an infection is developing. The clinic will provide her with instructions to follow to prevent an infection. These include: no sex, not using tampons, not swimming, and not bathing (having showers instead) for two weeks following the procedure. The clinic will also advise a post-operative check-up with her doctor.
If she has had a surgical abortion she may be feeling a little "hungover" from the anaesthetic. This may mean that she feels tired or a little nauseous. She will probably want to take things easy for the rest of the day after her abortion. Most women return to their regular activities the following day but she is advised to take things at a pace comfortable for her.
After the abortion: emotional aspects
Below is a list of things you could try to show your support for your partner, friend, or daughter after she has had a termination. Do things that feel comfortable for you and be sure that you are also receiving support for yourself (possibly from other friends, family or counsellors).
Let her know that you care about her and want to be there for her.
Allow her to talk about the experience as many times as she needs to.
Check in with her about who she would feel comfortable you talking to for your own support.
Acknowledge any negative feelings she is having (e.g. "I can see you feel angry about this") instead of trying to brush them aside.
If you're feeling concerned about her future contraceptive behaviour bring the subject up carefully. Do not respond in a judgmental or critical manner, this is not an appropriate time for a lecture. Responding in this manner will most likely distress her and will not be assisting her in any way.
If you're her parent and feel you would like to keep her away from her boyfriend consider the fact that women find the support of a caring male partner extremely helpful during and after an abortion. Taking a significant support person away from her could cause enormous distress.
Listen to how she is feeling and find out what she wants from you rather than giving lots of advice.
Do not suggest that you know how she feels as you probably don't.
Although you probably want her to get on with her life don't expect her to ignore the experience and forget all about it. Allow her to go through any processes that she needs to in order to move on from this experience.
If you're her partner and are not doing so already you should consider ways in which you can take your share of responsibility for contraception. By doing this you are showing that you do not want to take chances with her body or her well-being.
If she is experiencing negative feelings that she finds unmanageable encourage her to see a good counsellor. Post-abortion counselling may help by reminding her that she made the best decision she could in a difficult situation and that she has done well in making such a hard decision. Children by Choice provide post-abortion counselling and referrals to appropriate counsellors.
If you are listening to her in a non-judgmental and caring way and you're there for her to talk to when she needs to, then the support and love you provide will be invaluable to her during this experience.