What Are The Symptoms of an Incomplete Abortion?

Today, when women find out they are pregnant and want to terminate the pregnancy, they have different options. For example, they can decide between medical vs surgical abortion. Both methods are highly efficiency and should be performed by or under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Like any medical procedure, clinical abortions have a list of potential side effects or risks. When carried out by experts, pregnancies are terminated successfully in the majority of cases. But still, a small percentage of the cases can experience an incomplete abortion. An incomplete abortion occurs when the termination of a pregnancy is not entirely successful, leaving fetal or placental tissue in the uterus. When this happens, women can experience some common symptoms of an incomplete abortion.

This article aims to shed light on what an incomplete abortion entails, its symptoms, potential complications, and prevention strategies.

signs of incomplete abortion

What is an incomplete abortion?

A common misconception many people have is that an incomplete abortion means that the abortion process wasn’t done correctly, and as a consequence, the pregnancy continues. In reality, an incomplete abortion refers to a situation where the abortion procedure does not completely empty the contents of the uterus, resulting in retained fetal or placental tissue.

Another example of an incomplete abortion is when someone has a pregnancy loss, and the pregnancy tissue is still inside their uterus. Experiencing a miscarriage can happen due to many factors, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, cancer, thyroid issues, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infections, the prolonged use of birth control pills, ordering the abortion pill online and taking it without the guidance of a certified healthcare professional, etc.

Be aware that having a miscarriage may be a stressful experience for any woman; finding support from family, friends, or pregnancy loss support groups can be a huge help and bring peace of mind.

Symptoms of incomplete abortion

Suppose you feel like you may be experiencing an incomplete abortion or you recently had a pregnancy loss. In that case, it is crucial to identify the symptoms and seek timely medical attention from your healthcare or pregnancy care provider. Common symptoms include:

Vaginal bleeding

One of the most common symptoms of incomplete abortion is prolonged and heavy vaginal bleeding – beyond the expected duration of a regular menstrual period. Heavy bleeding occurs because the body tries to expel the remaining pregnancy tissue from the uterus. 

Abdominal pain and cramping

Intense and persistent pain in the lower abdomen is also a result of incomplete abortion. While it’s normal to feel some abdominal pain after an abortion, incomplete abortion pain tends to be more intense and lasts longer. That intense cramping is the uterus’s attempt to contract and expel the retained products of conception. Women can also experience lower back pain and chronic pelvic pain. 

Fever and chills

Pay attention if you experience a fever and feel dizzy. These symptoms are common indicators of an infection, which can occur if the uterus is not entirely emptied after an abortion.

Foul-smelling vaginal discharge

An unpleasant odor accompanying the vaginal bleeding may indicate infection due to the presence of pregnancy or fetal tissue in the uterus.

Retained products of conception

This term refers to the remnants of pregnancy tissue that have not been fully expelled from the uterus during the abortion process.

If someone experiences any of these symptoms following a miscarriage or an abortion, it’s crucial to reach your pregnancy care provider. A healthcare professional can conduct an evaluation, perform necessary tests, and provide appropriate treatment to ensure the uterus is entirely empty and prevent potential complications.

Complications of Incomplete Abortion

If left untreated, incomplete pregnancy losses can lead to severe complications, including:

  • Infection: Retained tissue can create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or endometritis.
  • Hemorrhage: Prolonged and heavy bleeding can result in significant blood loss, leading to anemia or even life-threatening conditions. If the bleeding is excessive, please get in touch with your pregnancy care provider, or call the emergency numbers.
  • Uterine perforation: A uterine perforation is a rare but serious complication that can occur during or after a pregnancy loss or an abortion procedure. When the uterus is not fully depleted, there may be attempts to remove the remaining tissue using medical instruments or other methods. If these attempts are not carefully made, they can accidentally cause a perforation in the uterine wall.
  • Asherman’s syndrome: Asherman’s syndrome, also known as intrauterine adhesions or uterine synechiae, is a rare but severe complication. It is characterized by the formation of scar tissue or adhesions inside the uterine cavity. A pregnancy loss or incomplete abortion, where not all pregnancy tissue is expelled from the uterus, can lead to inflammation and damage to the uterine lining. As a result, scar tissue may develop, causing the walls of the uterus to stick together.

Please note that these complications can be dangerous risk factors for your health if not treated properly.

Diagnosis of an Incomplete Abortion

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of an incomplete abortion, you should schedule an appointment with your pregnancy care providers for a complete analysis and diagnosis. The diagnosis may involve:

  • Physical examination: A physical examination of the pelvic region to check for abnormalities and assess the extent of bleeding is necessary to get a better picture of what’s happening inside.
  • Ultrasound: This is also a great way to visualize, get a clear image of the uterus, and identify any retained tissue.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests are a fantastic tool to check for infection, anemia, or other potential complications by measuring the levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the blood. The placenta produces HCG during pregnancy, and its levels are typically high during early pregnancy.

Treatment of Incomplete Abortion

After noticing symptoms of incomplete abortion and confirming the diagnosis, getting the proper treatment and management is extremely important. Treatment for incomplete abortion aims to complete the termination of the pregnancy and address any complications. Depending on how severe the condition is, the treatment strategy may change.

  • Expectant management: Expectant management, also known as “watchful waiting” or “conservative management,” is a treatment approach for incomplete abortion. It involves closely monitoring the woman’s condition without immediate medical or surgical intervention. This method is typically considered when the woman’s health is not at risk and there are no signs of infection or severe bleeding. However, it is essential to have regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider to ensure the process is progressing safely and to intervene if necessary.
  • Medical management: In some cases, medication, such as Misoprostol, a prostaglandin analog, is necessary. That drug may be prescribed to help the uterus expel the remaining tissue. In this case, your doctor will prescribe you Misoprostol orally or vaginally. The medication causes uterine contractions, which can help expel the remaining products of conception. This procedure also applies to patients whose abortion pill failed and who need the supervision and assistance of healthcare professionals.
  • Surgical management: A surgical procedure is another option for treating incomplete abortion and may be performed to remove the retained tissue from the uterus. Your doctor may suggest different types of surgical methods: Manual Vacuum Aspiration, Dilation and Curettage, and Dilation and Evacuation. Please note that these procedures must be performed by licensed and experienced healthcare professionals in an appropriate medical setting. 

The treatment of an incomplete abortion or a miscarriage can be a sensitive experience for most women. It is crucial to be surrounded by people who bring support and understatement. Several pregnancy loss support groups are available to provide help and assistance.

Prevention of Incomplete Abortion

These are some measures you can take after an abortion or miscarriage to reduce the risk of an incomplete abortion:

  • Safe abortion practices: Safe abortion practices are essential to prevent incomplete abortions and ensure the well-being of women undergoing the procedure. Some key factors to consider are:
    • Ensuring access to safe and legal abortion services;
    • Confirming that trained healthcare professionals perform the abortion procedure;
    • Early detection of pregnancy;
    • And a comprehensive assessment of the woman’s health and gestational age before choosing the appropriate abortion method.
  • Proper abortion after-care: Consult your licensed healthcare professional for after-abortion procedures and follow-up appointments to ensure your safety and overall health. 
  • Family planning options: Taking anti-conceptive measurements plays a crucial role in preventing unintended pregnancies and consequently reducing the risk of incomplete abortion. Consider implementing birth control pills, intrauterine devices, condoms, injectable contraceptives, implants, vaginal rings, fertility awareness methods such as tracking your menstrual cycle, or the morning-after pill as an emergency contraception method.

Need Professional help?

An incomplete abortion can become a serious medical emergency requiring immediate attention. If you have recently undergone an abortion, it’s essential to be aware of the signs that may indicate an incomplete abortion, such as; excessive or prolonged bleeding, severe abdominal pain or cramps, fever or chills, and foul-smelling vaginal discharge.

Remember, your health and well-being are paramount. If you suspect you’re experiencing symptoms of incomplete abortion, don’t hesitate to contact our healthcare providers at our abortion clinic in Fort Lauderdale.