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 previa — when the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix, which can cause severe bleeding before or during delivery
During a medical abortion, a woman takes oral medications — such as mifepristone (Mifeprex) — in early pregnancy to abort the fetus. During 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 (curette) — as an outpatient 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.
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. 06, 2011
See more Expert Answers
- Shulman LP, et al. Overview of pregnancy termination. http://www.uptodate.com/index.html. Accessed May 20, 2011.
- Lowit A, et al. Obstetric performance following an induced abortion. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2010;24:667.
- Briggs GG, et al. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011:962.
- Shah PS, et al. Induced termination of pregnancy and low birthweight and preterm birth: A systematic review and meta-analyses. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2009;116:1425.
- Liao H, et al. Repeated medical abortions and the risk of preterm birth in the subsequent pregnancy. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. In press. Accessed June 20, 2011.
- Kapp N, et al. Cervical preparation for first trimester surgical abortion. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2010:CD 007207.
- 2011 Clinical Policy Guidelines. National Abortion Federation. http://www.prochoice.org/pubs_research/publications/downloads/professional_education/2011%20CPGs.pdf. Accessed June 20, 2011.
- Safety of abortion. National Abortion Federation. http://www.prochoice.org/pubs_research/publications/downloads/about_abortion/safety_of_abortion.pdf. Accessed June 20, 2011.
- Liang H, et al. Mifepristone-induced abortion and vaginal bleeding in subsequent pregnancy. Contraception. In press. Accessed June 20, 2011.