Written by Jayne Leonard
When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, some women might consider a home abortion. Online sources cite abortion home remedies that they claim are both safe and effective.
For example, some suggest consuming various fruits, herbs, or supplements in excessive quantities. Others recommend intense exercise or inserting implements through the cervix to the uterus to induce abortion.
None of these options is a good idea. Some are merely ineffective, while others are incredibly risky and could potentially lead to disability or death.
In this article, we discuss the risks of home abortions, which range from toxicity to life threatening infection. We also detail the alternative options available to those who wish to end a pregnancy safely.
The risks of home remedies
Some abortion home remedies, such as drinking certain teas, may seem relatively safe.
However, consuming everyday herbs in excessive amounts could potentially lead to toxicity. Some remedies can be fatal.
The World Health Organization (WHO) report that 47,000 women die every year due to unsafe abortions, and an additional 5 million develop a disability as a result.
The WHO state that it is possible to prevent almost all of these deaths and disabilities through accessing safe abortion, sex education, and family planning.
Potential risks of home remedies include:
An incomplete abortion
An incomplete abortion is one that was not fully successful. It occurs when the pregnancy ends, but some of the fetal tissue remains in the body.
It is necessary to seek immediate medical treatment for an incomplete abortion to avoid significant blood loss, severe infection, or death. However, a woman may not know if the abortion is incomplete until they develop severe symptoms, such as bleeding.
Taking herbal remedies or abortion pills purchased from unreputable online sources can have serious consequences.
Even natural remedies can be toxic, especially when people consume them in large amounts.
When people eat toxic amounts of something, the liver comes under pressure to filter the toxins from the body. In severe cases, this results in liver damage or liver failure.
Some websites claim to sell abortions pills online, but many of these pills are not genuine. In some cases, they could be harmful. Products from other countries can contain contaminants from heavy metals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other authorities do not monitor these products, which means the public is not protected.
Hemorrhaging means major blood loss. While all surgeries, including surgical abortions, carry the risk of heavy bleeding, an abortion by an unqualified person increases that risk significantly.
Internal bleeding is life threatening and may go unnoticed until it is too late to stop it.
Infection and scarring
There is a risk of infection and internal scarring with surgical abortions, but this risk increases dramatically with at-home surgical abortions.
Inserting anything through the cervix to the uterus is extremely dangerous, as it can cause infection and scarring. Both of these outcomes can lead to infertility. Severe infections are life threatening.
At-home medical solutions
There is a safer alternative to home remedies for women who want to terminate their pregnancy at home.
A doctor can prescribe medication for a woman to take at home. This is known as a medical abortion. This option is becoming more common in the United States.
Typically, a medical abortion involves taking two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol, at different times. Mifepristone causes hormonal changes that allow the pregnancy to end, while misoprostol causes the uterus to contract and expel the uterine lining.
Medical abortion has a success rate of up to 99% for early pregnancy termination. Research indicates that it does not increase future pregnancy complications.
Medical abortions are an option for women who are up to 10–12 weeks pregnant or less, depending on local laws.
It is important to note that it is against the law to induce an abortion in many countries.
Doctors perform surgical abortions in situations where a medical abortion is not an option.
During a surgical abortion, also known as dilation and curettage (D&C), a surgeon will remove the fetus, using suction and a sharp tool called a curet.
In many areas, surgical abortions are an option for up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. After this time, options for terminating the pregnancy diminish. A doctor will typically only perform a surgical abortion if the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of the woman, or if there are issues with the baby’s development.
Women should talk to their doctor or midwife about how they feel about continuing the pregnancy.
Legal surgical abortions are relatively safe and effective. In rare cases, a D&C can cause scarring of the uterine wall, which is called Asherman’s syndrome.
Asherman’s syndrome may make it more difficult to get pregnant again, or it may increase the risk of miscarriage in future pregnancies.
Where to get help
People who have attempted a home abortion should seek medical help. It is essential that they get urgent attention if they have:
- excessive bleeding
- fever or chills
- jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
- loss of consciousness
- sweaty, cold skin
- other severe, persistent, or concerning symptoms
Women must tell their doctor what caused the symptoms. Giving as much information as possible will help the doctor to treat the issue correctly and promptly, as well as offer care and support.
People living in the U.S. who wish to have more information on accessing an abortion or on alternative options can get help from the following organizations:
- Planned Parenthood for information on options and access to low-cost abortion services.
- The National Network of Abortion Funds for financial assistance when seeking an abortion.
- Aid Access for an online consultation and safe mail order abortion pills.
Outside the United States, people may wish to contact:
- Marie Stopes International for information on local laws and available services worldwide.
- Women Help Women for information about organizations in several countries around the world.
Recovery from a medical or surgical abortion usually takes a couple of weeks. During this time, a person may experience some cramps and vaginal bleeding. Sometimes, the bleeding can last longer than 2 weeks, and on rare occasions, it can last up to 45 days. Anyone with bright red blood or bleeding that continues longer than 2 weeks must see their doctor.
The medications a woman takes during a medical abortion may cause nausea and other short-term effects.
The anesthetics or sedatives a doctor administers during a surgical abortion may also cause nausea or other side effects.
After either type of abortion, a doctor will advise that women wait until the bleeding ends before having sex to reduce the risk of infection. In the case of complications, some women may need to wait longer.
Do not use tampons for 6 weeks; use only pads.
During the recovery period, women can take ibuprofen to alleviate pain. Heating pads may also be helpful for cramps.
Women should contact their doctor or the clinic if they experience heavy bleeding, smelly discharge, fever, or other signs of infection.
It is also vital to deal with any emotional distress following an abortion. Abortions affect everyone differently — all emotional responses are valid. A doctor or the abortion clinic can provide contact details for therapists who offer postabortion counseling.