Abortion Health Risks and Side-Effects

An elective or induced abortion is a common medical procedure for ending a pregnancy. Like all medical procedures, a surgical or medical abortion carries potential side-effects and health risks, and these risks may vary from woman to woman. Abortions performed later in pregnancy carry more medical risk.

Surgical Abortion Risks

Immediate Side-Effects

  • Pain and/or cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Reaction to anesthetic
  • Death: It is rare for a women to die during the abortion procedure when performed by a qualified medical professional in early pregnancy.

Short-Term Problems Post-Abortion

  • Infection: Serious infection occurs in 3% of women and can lead to illness and infertility. As a result, many physicians prescribe antibiotics to prevent infections after every abortion.
  • Heavy Bleeding: 1-2% of women will have serious bleeding (more than a normal menstrual period).
  • Retained Tissue: If any part of the fetus, placenta, or amnionic sac is left inside the uterus a serious infection can occur, requiring a repeat of the suction abortion procedure.
  • Puncture of the uterus: This complication is rare, but requires surgical repair and can be life-threatening.
  • Sterility: Impairment to fertility may occur due to an infection, serious bleeding, or damage to the uterus.

Medical Abortion Risks

Immediate Side-Effects

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fever and chills

Short-Term Problems Post-Abortion

  • Allergic reaction: Some women are allergic to the drugs used in medical abortion (mifepristone and misoprostol) and can have a severe reaction.
  • Infection: Infection can occur, leading to illness and infertility. On rare occasions, infection can lead to death.
  • Prolonged Bleeding: Most women will bleed 9-16 days, and 1 in 12 will bleed 30 days or more.
  • Retained Tissue: If any part of the fetus, placenta, or amnionic sac is left inside the uterus a serious infection can occur, requiring a surgical abortion procedure.
  • Death: Though it is rare for a woman to die from any abortion, mifepristone abortions seem to be riskier than early surgical abortions, with fatalities at fourteen times the rate of suction-aspiration abortions.

Long Term Post-Abortions Risks

Future Fertility

Some studies have suggested an increased risk of pre-term birth after first-trimester vacuum aspiration, but other studies have found no connection. Studies of ectopic pregnancy risk following first-trimester suction abortion have shown varied results. Increased risks for miscarriage and preterm or low birthweight delivery have been reported for women obtaining second-trimester abortions.

Psychological and Emotional

Feelings after an abortion may vary. Some women feel relief, while others feel guilt or anger. Though post-abortion syndrome is not officially recognized as a psychiatric disorder, many women have long-lasting emotional problems following an abortion, especially those who previously experienced clinical depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental health difficulties. Conclusive scientific information about the long-term psychological effects of abortion are not known as no well-designed,long-term studies have been conducted.

"Abortion is the single most avoidable risk factor for breast cancer."

-Professor Joel Brind, MD, Baruch College CUNY (Biochemistry, Physiology, Immunology) [more about this]

The Abortion-Breast Cancer Connection: Is There a Link?

Numerous scientific studies spanning fifty years have documented a relationship between abortion and breast cancer. Several more recent studies have refuted this finding, but the matter is far from settled. Scientists have known for a long time that early childbearing protects against breast cancer, but there is no consensus on whether or not an abortion is an independent risk factor. Any woman with a family history of breast cancer or who is otherwise concerned is encouraged to do her own research into this important issue. However, accurate information about this issue may be difficult to find due to the sensitive and political nature of this issue, which affects even the scientific community.

Dive Deeper

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