Could an abortion increase the risk of problems in a subsequent pregnancy?

Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.

Generally, abortion isn't thought to cause fertility issues or complications in subsequent pregnancies. However, some research suggests a possible link between abortion and an increased risk of:

  • Vaginal bleeding during early pregnancy
  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Placenta problems, such as retained placenta

During a medical abortion, a woman takes medication in early pregnancy to abort the fetus. In a surgical abortion, the fetus is removed from the uterus — typically with a vacuum device, a syringe or a spoon–shaped instrument with a sharp edge (curet) — as a surgical procedure. Rarely, a surgical abortion can damage the cervix or uterus. In such cases, surgery might be needed to correct the damage before a woman can conceive again. Also, rarely the cervix can be weakened, leading to the potential for the cervix to open prematurely (incompetent cervix) in a subsequent pregnancy. This is more likely to affect women who have had multiple surgical abortions.

If you've had an abortion and are concerned about the possible impact on a future pregnancy, consult your health care provider. He or she can help you understand the potential risks, as well as what you can do to help ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Aug. 05, 2014