Will a doctor be able to tell if you've taken abortion pills?

Monday, September 23, 2019 blog Share

Can a doctor tell if someone has used abortion pills?

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There are many reasons one might choose to take abortion pills, as opposed to seeking abortion care in a clinical setting. Because 90% of US counties lack an abortion clinic, she may be unable to afford the cost of travel, which also may involve taking one or more days off of work (depending on the abortion regulations in her state), finding childcare, lodging, and more. She may prefer to control where and when she takes the pills, and where she experiences cramping, bleeding, and other symptoms. She may not want her abusive partner, her parents, or anyone in her life to find out about her pregnancy or her abortion. If this is the case, she will likely be anxious that, even once her abortion is complete, that someone in the future, namely a doctor, will learn that she's had an abortion.

Can a doctor tell if someone has used abortion pills? The answer is no, if they have been taken orally. (If the pills are inserted into the vagina, a doctor may be able to tell if there are traces remaining.) If one took the mifepristone/misoprostol combination, or misoprostol on its own, and she does seek medical care because of complications, she does not need to tell a health care provider that she took abortion pills. The symptoms of a miscarriage and a medical abortion are the same, and there are no tests that can prove one has had a medical abortion(s).

So a doctor can't tell if one has had a medical abortion, and in situations where one fears for her personal safety, or doesn't trust her health care provider with this information, that's a good thing. But if neither of these is the case,  it's important to consider why someone would not want her doctor to know her entire medical history, including abortions. Is she holding back this information out of shame? Does she secretly fear that abortion has endangered her fertility? Abortion doesn't impact future fertility, and doctors who traffic in actual medicine know this, and should make sure their patients know it as well.

Abortion stigma, or ideas and beliefs about abortion that are medically inaccurate and negative, can result in those who take abortion pills not seeking medical care if they need it, taking the pills incorrectly, or getting the pills from sources that aren't safe, since they don't want anyone to know that they're seeking abortion. Health care providers should not in any way contribute to the perpetuation of abortion stigma; in fact, it's their job to ensure that people get accurate information and medical care regardless of their personal beliefs.

To learn more about about abortion pills, how they work, what to expect, and more, check out Women Help Women's FAQs.