Help me survive 2 more weeks of pregnancy symptoms
January 20, 2015 6:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm pregnant, but for a variety of reasons, am having an abortion in 2 weeks. New pregnancy symptoms keep popping up and making me miserable, and also sad. How can I minimize them and/or feel less sad every time a new one pops up?

My husband and I very much want children, but now is the worst possible time to have one. I am in my first year of a challenging new career that has me working 70+ hour weeks, and my due date falls in the least convenient time of year to take FMLA. My husband is unemployed. We have no social support in our city, and plan on moving in a year or two. We are not emotionally, financially, socially, or logistically ready for children. We are both certain that getting an abortion is the right call. This question is not about whether to get an abortion.

Regardless, I am still sad and scared because although my rational brain knows that the timing is bad and we'll have kids later, my irrational brain keeps shrieking things like, "What if the abortion leaves me infertile? What if my husband or I gets run over by a train and this is our only chance for a child?" Etc.

Meanwhile, it is hard for me to focus on my work and ignore the pregnancy because new symptoms keep popping up. I have sore breasts, urinary frequency, constipation, bloating, heartburn, nausea, and I hate to think what else the intervening two weeks will bring.

How can I talk myself down from being irrationally upset about the abortion? Failing that, how can I minimize my pregnancy symptoms? I've read a lot online, but it's all geared toward women who want a healthy baby at the end of their pregnancy, so I'm wondering if there are any symptom amelioration strategies that might be left off those lists.

Other potentially relevant details: abortion will be surgical, not medical, and I'm having an IUD inserted at the same time. I do not have time to go to therapy unless there are therapists in Chicago who stay open until 7 or 8 PM.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Never been pregnant and never had to face this choice, but I absolutely support you.

I'm sure other people will be able to chime in with better advice for the physical symptoms, but I've found that peppermint tea is good for tummy-related issues - plus it's tasty, and the fact that it's tea just has this inherent, homey, cozy, "I'm taking care of myself" feel to it. Make sure that it's just peppermint leaves, no other ingredients; but you should be able to find it in your supermarket really easy. You can also make a container of cold peppermint tea to keep in the fridge by sticking a few tea bags into a jar or jug - one bag per 8 ounces or so - and fill it with water and just stick it back in your fridge and leave it there. It'll be ready in a few hours, and you can leave the tea bags right in it while you're sipping through it.

Emotionally: maybe write a letter to your future self, or your future child - whichever you feel would make you feel better - which says some of the things you want to say. Expressing the way you feel, even if it's only to a piece of paper which you may decide you want to burn later on - always helps.

You are in my thoughts. good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Lots of water and tea. Stool softener. Mylanta. Aleve or ibuprofen. And ask a doctor for something for the nausea.
posted by amro at 7:08 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is there any chance you can move up the abortion? I was in a similar situation (birth control failed and I got pregnant the first time I had sex after giving birth to my daughter, would have kept the pregnancy if not for the awful awful timing) and I was going out of my mind until I had the procedure. I scheduled mine through Panned Parenthood and they were wonderful.

In any case, your doctor may be able to prescribe something for the nausea. I would definitely ask.
posted by lydhre at 7:10 AM on January 20, 2015 [9 favorites]

To add, the anxiety and guilt really eased once it was done. It was not a good time for my family and it sounds like it's not a good time for yours. Take care of yourself. I'm sending you a big virtual hug, if you want it. I know how awful it is right now.
posted by lydhre at 7:14 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Chicago Abortion Fund recommends Exhale (the After Abortion Talk Line) 1-866-4-EXHALE and Chicago Women’s Health Center (for Abortion Counseling Groups) 1-773-935-6126. In your position I would call CWHC for advice. There are other peer support groups in the city, but I (unfortunately) don't know what they are. Perhaps Planned Parenthood or the Chicago Abortion Fund can refer you?

I add my kind thoughts to the virtual hugs here. Know that many many women in the world have nothing but support for your decision.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:17 AM on January 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

Stay hydrated. Light exercise (yoga? walking?) if that works for you. Maybe find a hot tub to soak in?

And, this advice might be a little dicey, depending on your relationship with alcohol, but a pretty wise man supposedly once said that God made beer because s/he loves us and wants us to be happy. If it works for you, a strong portion of your favorite alcoholic beverage on a schedule that is compatible with your work and personal life might help with the anxiety some -- as long as it doesn't get to the point of self-medicating.

You guys are so stressed out as it is. Can you afford a nice romantic dinner and a bottle of champagne? Can you make that happen this weekend?
posted by sparklemotion at 7:18 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

For the physical discomfort- Drink lots of water, take some kick ass antacid, and maybe partake in a bit of marijuana.
posted by fourpotatoes at 7:19 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

For nausea, my best tip is to rub a little noxzema under your nose. It's kind of fresh and bracing & it does a good job blocking out the other smells.

"What if the abortion leaves me infertile? What if my husband or I gets run over by a train and this is our only chance for a child?"

Guttmacher Institute: "Abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries."

Hugs. You have my support and you are welcome to memail me.
posted by mochapickle at 7:19 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't think you're describing a situation that necessarily calls for therapy, but since you mentioned therapists open late in Chicago, this place popped into my head: Urban Balance. I don't have direct experience with them, but had come across their website a while ago and thought of them when you mentioned your schedule constraints. They offer evening and weekend hours, and have several locations. Again, not saying you need therapy for this, just posting the link in case it's helpful.

Also, sometimes when you're feeling overwhelmed by worries or other strong negative feelings, it's helpful to kind of narrate to yourself what you're feeling--like, "I am feeling anxious right now because I am afraid the abortion will leave me infertile," or "I am feeling angry that I have to terminate this pregnancy just because of the timing," etc. Your feelings aren't wrong or inaccurate, so you don't need to correct or argue with them. They're also not facts. Acknowledging them without judgment can help you to create some breathing room. Then, you can continue narrating with statements like, "Even though I feel anxious about this abortion, I know I've made a thoughtful and careful decision and am doing what's best for myself and my family," or "Even though I feel afraid about this procedure, my research tells me there is little actual risk to me." In other words, this strategy is about accepting the feelings you're having and letting them exist alongside the facts, rather than seeing them as conflicting.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:33 AM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ginger can help with the nausea. I preferred candied ginger, but ginger tea also soothed my stomach.
posted by belladonna at 7:33 AM on January 20, 2015

I often find forming my hand into a claw and digging my fingernails into the back of my scalp or grabbing a fist of hair in the same area helps alleviate woozy waves of overwhelming nausea. I am not a woo-woo accupressure person, I just figured out that it personally happens to work for me. YMMV, but it doesn't hurt to try it.

I support your decision and truly believe their is no reason why you will not have another child later, on your terms, when the timing it better. Best of luck to you.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:38 AM on January 20, 2015

I read some advice here that I liked and have been using: saying to yourself, 'I'm going to put this on the shelf until later'. This helps me cope with upsetting things when I really don't have time for them, but am reacting anyway.

For you, I think it would help to think: I'm just going to get through the next 2 weeks. They are finite. They will pass. I will put off my worries and fears until later.

Also, early abortion has such a small risk rate that I think it's well justified for you to tell yourself: I will enjoy these feelings and symptoms next time. It will happen, and it will be the right time, and I will look forward to them then.

Very best brave wishes.
posted by Dashy at 7:43 AM on January 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Nthing ginger or ginger tea. I can find plain old ginger root tea bags near where I live, but if you can't, you can just peel and chop up ginger root and boil it with water in a saucepan and drink that as a tea. I've also found that good old-fashioned saltines (I use the no salt on top kind just because I prefer the taste -- probably makes no difference, though) actually help nausea a lot if I eat them quite slowly.

Sending good thoughts and support.
posted by holborne at 7:43 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry for your loss. Which may be an odd thing to say just now, but it's the epitome of reasonable to be sad that you won't be able to carry your first pregnancy the way you had hoped. It sounds like you will be a really conscientious parent when the time comes and I wish you all the best.

The pregnancy symptom that came as the biggest surprise to me the first time was the extreme and uncontrollable exhaustion. Rest (at home) as much as you need to over the next couple of weeks. If you need to come home and lie on the couch til bedtime, THIS IS NORMAL. Let your husband pick up the slack around the house.

And definitely get some medicine for the nausea.
posted by telepanda at 7:43 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

(Anon, I would have mefi-mailed you if I could because this doesn't directly answer your question, but I thought you might like to know. There are some recent studies that your doctor may not be aware of which indicate that the chances of uterine perforation and embedding are higher for IUD insertions performed right after pregnancy - i.e. after delivery or abortion. Likely because of changes in the uterus that happen during pregnancy. On my phone right now but can send you some links if you drop me a note. May be worth waiting a few months before insertion just to be safe. IANAD/TINMA.)
posted by amaire at 7:53 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wonder if coffee or caffeinated tea would help, if you can stomach it? It could certainly help with the exhaustion and probably with constipation, too.

And nthing everyone's well wishes. This time will pass before you know it, and you'll be in a better position to plan your family down the road. Enjoy some wine, take a bath, read something escapist and immersive to pass the time more quickly. Hugs and hugs.
posted by magdalemon at 8:00 AM on January 20, 2015

You are absolutely allowed to be sad and scared.

Something that may help the irrational thoughts is acknowledging them as irrational and irrelevant. For instance, if your brain starts poking in with the "but what if this is my only chance to have a kid what if this happens what if what if what if and why am i so sick how can i make it better", then you can respond with something like "That's just the crazy brain talking" or "Well, normally I wouldn't think that, so I'm just going to ignore that thought" or "This is temporary, and in 2 weeks I'll feel better and it will be ok."

And if all that sounds too woo, that's ok, too, I'm not offended.

You have to self-soothe. You have decided that this is the right thing to do, and you can keep telling yourself that. "This is the right decision. I am doing the right thing."

I know it's hard. Damn irrational intrusive thoughts.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 8:03 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ginger is a wonderful anti-nausea herb. If marijuana is an option then that definitely helps with combating nausea. Get the procedure done as soon as possible.

There are many, many women who have had abortions and have then gone on to have children - I'm one of them. It's a procedure, not a life sentence. You will continue to live your life after this. You will get through it.
posted by h00py at 8:03 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hey did you know there is such thing as an abortion doula? I wish I had one it can really help! And there is an abortion support group in Chicago at the CWHC, I never went because of time, so not sure you will be able to either. But, know that you do need to make time for the healing. If you are feeling this now, I think you will want to process it. You will have a child later and abortions are not likely to make you infertile, and even if you would infertile, for another reason, there are plenty of other ways to become a mom. You are in my thoughts. You know what is best for you and your body. Yea the sooner the better try and speed it up if you can :)
posted by momtips at 8:05 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

If nausea is an issue, your doctor may be able to prescribe you zofran or a similar anti nausea med. Otherwise taking a unisom tablet with a b6 vitamin can help.

In case it helps to hear this kind of thing, I aborted a pregnancy with my then-boyfriend for similar reasons many years ago. We now have two gorgeous kids, a house, satisfying careers and a boatload of gratitude that we were able to end a pregnancy that would have put a massive roadblock on our path to happiness. It made me sad for a long while. I'm not even a little sad anymore. I'm proud of you for doing what's best for your family. Good luck.
posted by waterisfinite at 8:09 AM on January 20, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'm so sorry, that sounds incredibly hard. The symptoms you describe are pretty typical first trimester symptoms, including anxiety, and I don't imagine you'll experience much in addition to that. Zantac should help with the heartburn and perhaps the nausea as well; try fish oil for the constipation (inserted rectally if things are really bad). Try wearing an underwire-free sports bra in a size bigger than normal for the breast pain, or gently massaging your breasts with lotion. Likewise, wear loose waistbands for bloating.

Treat your body with lovingkindness right now, because it's going through a lot. Treat yourself with lovingkindness, too, because you are, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:09 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Regarding ginger: the chemical reason that ginger works for nausea is because it causes the stomach to empty faster. If you are experiencing nausea and the reason is due to being hungry, ginger is not the ideal remedy. In the first trimester your body immediately begins to work on expanding your blood volume (blood volume increases 50% during pregnancy), which translates to an increase in hunger. So, rather than ginger, a lot of people recommend using lemon to combat nausea - lemon juice in your water, lemon candies, carrying cut slices of lemon in a Ziploc in your bag to smell if a wave of nausea hits you when you're in public. Anecdotally, I always wanted salty foods and snacks. Regardless of your long-term goal for this pregnancy (and please understand I fully support your decision), do your best to take care of your health and your body today, each day. It is the best way to support your own mental and emotional health.

Drink lots of water, and yes, definitely try to rest or sleep when you can. The exhaustion can be tough and can contribute to your mental state.

I've had many miscarriages (believe me - way more than the average) and I can tell you that my mental and emotional state returned to "normal" probably within a week each time, because the body really does catch up hormonally that quickly. Of course you will still think of this pregnancy from time to time, but you will move on. Best of luck.
posted by vignettist at 8:10 AM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh, if you are experiencing any insomnia due to anxiety, I've heard that many doctors suggest Benadryl. I never tried it myself as I found out about it too late, but you might find it helpful.
posted by vignettist at 8:12 AM on January 20, 2015

It's hard to do, but try to keep eating small food throughout the day, it will really help with the nausea. With both of my pregnancies, anytime I had an empty stomach, I was super sick. I kept crackers on my bedside table. Tums helps with the heartburn.
posted by katers890 at 8:30 AM on January 20, 2015

The downside to Bendryl is that it has a super long half life, so that the second night you take it you're sort of taking 1.5 doses, and the night after that you're taking 1.75 doses, etc. It totally knocks me out but I'm not 100% awake the next day and long term use gets you really out of it.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:08 AM on January 20, 2015

I was in a very similar situation last year. I found marijuana to be very helpful with nausea, inappetence, and general aches and pains.
posted by OsoMeaty at 9:22 AM on January 20, 2015

There are definitely therapists in Chicago that are open late, and take sliding scale payments if you're paying cash. DASC has been fantastic for me. Feel free to MeMail if you want some local support.
posted by juniperesque at 9:51 AM on January 20, 2015

What if the abortion leaves me infertile

Don't go researching that, because there are wingnuts out there making up statistics. Here's some comforting-ish facts:

The risk of complications from abortion is minimal—0.3% of abortions have major complications. (ACOG)

At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and at 2008 abortion rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45. (Guttmacher Institute. So, you should understand that abortion is really common in the US, and lots of your friends have had abortions although it might not come up in conversation)

Abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries. ( Guttmacher. They can't say "no risk" because even getting your teeth cleaned has some risk.)

A doctor once asked me during a checkup if I'd ever been pregnant. When I said yes, and that I'd had an abortion, she said "good!" because it indicated that I was fertile and would be able to get pregnant when I wanted to. And ta dah, she was right, I have two awesome kids now who I wouldn't've had if I hadn't had an abortion.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:36 AM on January 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

Tangibles: peppermint, ginger, candy, your favorite drugs/alcohols. Weed, definitely.

Intangibles: trying to embrace the situation for what it is, rather than worry about all its different potentials.

It might seem counter-intuitive (especially if you're a crouton-petter), but treating it as a short-stay guest, rather than an unmentionable medical issue to be taken care of in shame and silence, made the experience more bearable and humane to me. Even though I had zero doubts about my decision, it felt wrong, sadder somehow, to not acknowledge the presence inside me.
So instead of repressing those "baby" thoughts and pretending I had a cold or something, I leaned hard into them and tried to enjoy my chance at experiencing pregnancy, however briefly. I paid attention to how my body felt as it ramped up ("So THAT's morning sickness, huh?"), looked up images of clumps of cells at the same stage, had little internal chats with it as I carried it around my life. And when the time came, I had a look at that little larva on the screen and said goodbye with gratitude, both for the experience and for the freedom of not having to carry it out longer than I wanted.

All my best to you. You'll be just fine.
posted by Freyja at 12:20 PM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Lots of water and tea. Stool softener. Mylanta. Aleve or ibuprofen. And ask a doctor for something for the nausea.

I am a high risk antepartum RN, but not your RN. TINMA.

Please do not take Aleve or any type of ibuprofen! It will increase your bleeding before your surgery. You can try Tylenol for headaches, or a heating pad for cramping. Mylanta kept in the fridge is good for indigestion/heartburn. Also try sleeping with your head a slightly inclined.

As far as breast tenderness, ice packs or small bags of frozen peas in your bra help. An old wives' tale trick is to put cabbage leaves in your bra to help with swelling and pain. I've not done it myself, but I've heard repeatedly that it works.

I found that the salty/sweet combo mentioned up-thread helped me during my pregnancies. Potato chips and lemonade did the trick. Peppermint tea also helped with the nausea.

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about urinary frequency.

Colace is a good stool softener, but I found Smartfood popcorn a much more...palatable alternative. Besides, it was something I could snack on all day to keep the nausea at bay.

I'm so, so sorry that you're going through this. Big hugs to you. Please feel free to PM me if I can answer any questions.
posted by dancinglamb at 12:33 PM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Zofran is incredibly effective (and cheap and safe) prescription anti-nausea medication. I had severe nausea (not pregnancy-related but sustained in the same way) and it was a lifesaver for me.

Natural remedies might help a little, but nausea is so life-affecting I think it would massively benefit you to get some rx meds for it.
posted by kalapierson at 1:26 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nth 24 hr Mylanta.

I'm sure there is a therapist in Chicago who would do late evening appointments and it's worth finding them.

Feelings aren't rational or irrational... They just are. All your feelings are ok.

posted by jrobin276 at 1:40 PM on January 20, 2015

Look, IANAD. I take Ditropan for overactive bladder and had zero urinary urgency issues while pregnant. The side effects are minimal and unremarkable, and it's available over the counter in the US as a patch. It may take time to build up to full effectiveness BUT under the circumstances it might be worth a try to see if it takes the edge off.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:49 PM on January 20, 2015

Dealing with symptoms, recommendations:
Sore breasts: Take aspirin, Tylenol or another pain killer
Urinary frequency: nothing you can do about this one, sorry
Constipation: stool softener
Bloating: aleve
Heartburn: Pepcid once a day and Tums as needed
Nausea: See if doc can prescribe an anti-nausea
I hate to think what else the intervening two weeks will bring: look out for severe Charlie Horses in the calves - to alleviate pain, slowly stand up to flex the foot and muscle.
Also consider a beer or wine to cool it at the end of the day.
posted by Toddles at 3:47 PM on January 20, 2015

I am so very sorry you are in this situation, and I'll be thinking of you, anonymous OP, over the next two weeks.

One thing that might help you emotionally is this comment by batmonkey about how she thought of her pregnancies as visiting sparks. Freya's comment above about a short-term guest is very much along the same lines. If it feels right, you can imagine you are a host to a visiting entity, and you are going to let that little entity go in a couple of weeks because it isn't the right time for it. It's ok to be sad, but it's also ok to feel you're doing the right thing. Those two feelings can coexist.

I recently chose to terminate a much wanted pregnancy for medical reasons. I had to wait for two weeks between the devastating diagnosis and the abortion. It was agonizing, because I could feel movement already. But I find batmonkey's comment compassionate and comforting. I wish you peace...take care and be gentle with yourself. If there was ever a time to cut yourself infinite slack, it's now.
posted by Secret Sockdentity at 4:32 PM on January 20, 2015

I would agree with the suggestions for medications, if you're the type of person who takes medications. The difference between you and someone planning to carry a pregnancy to term is that you don't have to worry about what meds you take. You can do Zofran, Benadryl, laxatives, Zantac or Prilosec. They're all available over the counter except Zofran - if I were you I'd go to the pharmacy and stock up, and take whatever I needed whenever I needed it. And take some time off work if you can, and definitely, definitely try to get your appointment moved up if you can.

Last thought: don't think of your feelings as irrational. They aren't! It is perfectly natural and rational to feel sad and upset in your situation. You can't logic yourself out of the way you feel, and it may help to give yourself permission to feel those very understandable sad feelings.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:52 PM on January 20, 2015

I agree with Dashy, but I would also add that I would recommend that you try to accomplish nothing other than working and resting. Let everything else slide for these two weeks.

But I would actually plan on that period being longer than two weeks. It can take a while for your body to recalibrate, and in the meantime it is still in building mode. I didn't feel normal for a few weeks after.

My sister had an abortion when she first got pregnant with her now husband. They now have two beautiful daughters.
posted by Monday at 6:35 PM on January 20, 2015

I just wanted to add my virtual hug to everyone else in this thread--I've been in this exact situation and I know how hard it is (and also how necessary). Things that worked for me were:

Wearing a sports bra for super-sore breasts. Something about the extra support was really helpful for pain/soreness.

Colace is the best stool softener I've used.

For nausea I ate small bland meals to keep food in my stomach but not upset it. I had a box of saltines around all the time. Rice, mashed potatoes, dry cereal, etc. Ginger flavored things and bitters in soda water also help a lot. A trick I've learned from being a nurse is that an alcohol swab under your nose helps nausea a lot (may not be particularly sustainable in your day-to-day life though, ha). If your nausea is debilitating and persists despite all of that, go get a prescription for zofran or phenergan.

Also, sleep as much as you humanly can. Pregnancy makes you exhausted and there is nothing you can really do to fight it. Just sleep sleep sleep outside of work until your abortion date.

Be extra kind to yourself. Big hug to you, I know this sucks really bad. You are being smart and strong and making the right decision for yourself.
posted by theafterglow at 6:10 AM on January 21, 2015

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