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
See more Expert Answers
- Ling FW, et al. Overview of pregnancy termination. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 9, 2014.
- Lowit A, et al. Obstetric performance following an induced abortion. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2010;24:667.
- Liang H, et al. Mifepristone-induced abortion and vaginal bleeding in subsequent pregnancy. Contraception. 2011;84:609.
- 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. 2011;284:579.
- Kapp N, et al. Cervical preparation for first trimester surgical abortion. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007207.pub2/abstract. Accessed May 9, 2014.
- Induced Abortion. Washington, D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; 2011;1.
- Dilation and Curettage. Washington, D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; 2005;1.
- Berghella V. Cervical insufficiency. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 16, 2014.
- Harms RW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 15, 2014.