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What is an Incomplete Abortion?

An incomplete abortion is very rare, but it can sometimes happen when you have a pregnancy termination. The term incomplete abortion can be confusing, because it sounds as if the termination hasn’t happened. However, it actually means that the contents of the womb haven’t been expelled completely. The abortion has happened, but there is still some material left in the womb.

How Common is Incomplete Abortion?

Most women won’t experience any problems when they have a pregnancy termination. However, complications can happen in rare cases. Sometimes there can be some tissue left in your womb, which could be part of the womb lining or some of the products of the pregnancy (from the foetus or the placenta). You are no longer pregnant, but the abortion is incomplete as there is still material inside your womb that needs to be removed.

The earlier that you have the pregnancy termination, the easier it is for your womb to empty itself completely. Incomplete abortions are therefore more likely if you have a termination later in the pregnancy. However, the risks are still relatively low.

The chances of having an incomplete abortion after a medical termination are approximately:

  • 1.6% up to day 77 of the pregnancy
  • 2.6% between 78 to 83 days
  • 3.4% between 83 to 91 days

Incomplete abortions are less likely to happen after a surgical termination as the doctor will have cleared out the womb contents during the procedure. However, it can still happen if any of the tissue is missed.

Signs of an Incomplete Abortion

You might have had an incomplete abortion if you notice the following symptoms after your pregnancy termination:

  • Bleeding more than expected
  • Bleeding that doesn’t get lighter after the first few days
  • Bleeding that lasts more than three weeks
  • Very severe pain or cramps
  • Pain that lasts longer than a few days
  • Discomfort when anything presses on your belly
  • Fever that is high or lasts more than a day or two

What Happens if An Abortion is Incomplete?

If you have any signs of an incomplete abortion then it is important to contact the 132 Healthwise clinic right away. You will need additional treatment if there is any material left in your womb as it could cause problems such as infections if it isn’t removed.

The doctor may want to perform an ultrasound scan to confirm the diagnosis. If you have had an incomplete abortion after taking the abortion pill then you may be able to take another dose of misoprostol to make your womb contract more.

If this doesn’t help or isn’t suitable for you, then the doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to clear out the womb instead. You might be able to have manual vacuum aspiration of a dilation and curettage procedure. Both can usually be performed without a general anaesthetic and you shouldn’t need to stay in hospital overnight.

The same methods are also used to treat women who have had an incomplete miscarriage or who have tissue left in the womb after giving birth. You might also be aware of these procedures already as they are also used to perform surgical pregnancy terminations.

The treatment should ensure that no tissue is left inside your womb. Your symptoms should start to improve quickly and the risks of more serious complications should be eliminated. However, you should still watch out for any signs of infection or other problems and contact your doctor if you have any concerns.

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