Abortion Risks

Abortion - Medical Risks

A woman’s risk of dying from a legal abortion is very low. Abortions performed early in pregnancy have the lowest risk. Women who have an abortion do not have any known increased risk of problems in future pregnancies. Women who have complications from their abortion procedure have a low risk of problems in future pregnancies.

Each woman reacts differently to an abortion. Nearly all women undergoing an abortion have some pain or discomfort, ranging in intensity from mild to severe. Serious medical complications rarely occur from a legal abortion, however there are risks with every surgical procedure.

The following are recognized risks of abortion procedures:

  • Incomplete abortion: The uterus may not be completely emptied which may cause heavy bleeding and a repeat procedure may be required. The reported rate of incomplete abortion is less than 1%.
  • Heavy bleeding: Some bleeding after an abortion procedure is common. Heavy bleeding is uncommon but may need to be treated with medication or repeat suction.
  • Cervical injury: The opening of the uterus, the cervix, may tear during a surgical procedure. Injury to the cervix occurs in less than 1% of abortion procedures.
  • Puncturing of the uterus: A medical instrument used in a surgical abortion procedure may go through the wall of the uterus, although this is rare, occurring in less than 1 in 1,000 women. Depending on the severity of the perforation, it can lead to infection, heavy bleeding, or both. Surgery may be required to repair the uterus and, in rare cases, a hysterectomy may be necessary.
  • Infection: Infection after an abortion procedure can occur and can usually be treated with antibiotics. The risk of infection will depend on the type of procedure done. Rates of infection are lowest in vacuum aspiration procedures.
  • Asherman Syndrome: A rare condition where scar tissue is formed in the uterus after surgical procedures. This may lead to infertility, future pregnancy loss, menstrual abnormalities, and/or pain.
  • Allergic reactions and anesthesia-related complications: Any surgical procedure that requires anesthesia or medications carries with it a small risk due to the human response to the drugs. These reactions may occur with oral medications, local anesthesia, or intravenous sedation.

Emotional Reactions

Each woman having an abortion will experience the procedure differently from an emotional perspective. The facts surrounding her decision and her personal circumstances, such as age, stage of pregnancy, and her religious beliefs, may affect her experience. Women often report having both positive and negative feelings after having an abortion. Women who say they feel comfortable with their decision before the procedure are less likely to report regret later. Some women say they have had conflicting feelings lasting a long time. These feelings may include anger, grief, emptiness and guilt, or sadness, as well as relief. Women may be more likely to experience negative feelings or have difficulty after the procedure if they felt forced into a decision or if they had previous depression or other mental health issues.

Counseling or support before and after an abortion is very important. If family or friends are not supportive of the woman’s decision, the feelings that appear after an abortion may be harder to handle. This is also true if the procedure was undertaken in secrecy or isolation. Talking with a counselor before having an abortion can help a woman understand the factors that are part of her decision and the feelings she may have afterward.

Which of the following complications may be associated with abortion?

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Cervical injury
  • Puncturing of the uterus
  • Incomplete abortion
  • All of the above
  • None of the above

The correct answer is all of the above. Each of these can be a complication of abortion

Which of the following emotional reactions to abortion may occur?

  • Grief
  • Feelings of loss
  • Anger
  • Relief
  • All of the above
  • None of the above

The correct answer is all of the above. Each of these can be an emotional reaction to abortion