Could an elective abortion increase the risk of problems in a subsequent pregnancy?
Answer From Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
Generally, elective abortion isn't thought to cause fertility issues or complications in future pregnancies.
But risks to future pregnancies may depend on the type of elective abortion performed:
- Medical abortion. Medication is taken in early pregnancy to abort the fetus. An elective medical abortion doesn't appear to increase the risk of future pregnancy complications, as long as it's done under the guidance of your health care team.
- Surgical abortion. This is a surgical procedure to remove the fetus from the uterus through the vagina. The procedure is typically done using suction or an instrument called a curet. While many studies have shown that surgical abortion has limited impact on future pregnancies, a 2015 review of multiple studies suggested a link between prior surgical abortion and a slight increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Women who have multiple surgical abortions using a curet are at risk of scarring of the inner lining of the uterus (Asherman syndrome). This condition is associated with difficulty in becoming pregnant in the future.
If you have had an elective abortion and you are concerned about its possible impact on a future pregnancy, talk to your health care provider. He or she can help you understand the potential risks and the steps you can take to promote a healthy pregnancy.
Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
Sept. 19, 2020
- Steinauer J. Overview of pregnancy termination. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 16, 2020.
- Frequently asked questions: Special procedures FAQ043: Induced abortion. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/special-procedures/induced-abortion. Accessed June 16, 2020.
- Frequently asked questions: Special procedures FAQ062: Dilation and curettage. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/special-procedures/dilation-and-curettage. Accessed June 16, 2020.
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- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice Bulletin No. 143: Medical management of first-trimester abortion. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2014; doi:10.1097/01.AOG.0000444454.67279.7d. Reaffirmed 2016.