Abortion Risks and Side Effects

We inform, you decide.

Before you have any elective procedure it’s important to know the potential impacts it could have on your body and future health. Here we’ve compiled the latest research on the impacts of abortion.

Risks and side effects vary by the type of procedure and how far along you are. If you’re pregnant, CompassCare can help you determine exactly what kind of abortion procedure you could be eligible for, and discuss the specific risks and side effects associated with that procedure.

Common Side Effects

Most women experience some of the following after an abortion:

  • Bleeding – on average, bleeding lasts 14 days but can last as long as 21 days. 1,2
  • Cramping
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea/Vomiting

These symptoms typically resolve within a week, sometimes longer.

Possible Complications

  • Damage to the womb or cervix
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Incomplete abortion, requiring an additional surgical abortion procedure
  • Infection of the uterus or fallopian tubes
  • Scarring of the inside of the uterus
  • Sepsis or Septic shock
  • Uterine perforation
  • Death

Future Health Risks

Future Pre-term Deliveries
  • Abortion causes a weakening of the cervix, which increases a woman’s risk of future pre-term deliveries. Two recently-published studies indicate that one induced abortion increases the risk of a subsequent preterm birth by between 25% and 27%. After two or more abortions a woman’s risk of preterm birth increases by between 51% and 62%. 3,4
  • A 2013 Canadian study found that women who have had abortions are more than twice as likely to have a very early preterm child (26 weeks gestation). The risks were 71% higher at 28 weeks gestation and 45% higher at 32 weeks. 5 (Premature births carry serious health risks for the baby. Infants who are born before 37 weeks gestational age have a much lower chance of living to adulthood. 6 Those that do survive have significant risk of serious disabilities, including cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment, psychological development disorders and autism. 7,8,9 )
Breast Cancer
  • Studies show that abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. A 2013 analysis revealed a 44% increased risk of breast cancer among females who had at least one induced abortion. The relative risk increased to 76% and 89% for those who had at least two or three abortions, respectively. 10
  • Often women considering abortion are experiencing their first pregnancy. It is important to note the protective effects of a woman’s first full-term pregnancy, which causes breast cells to mature. “Among women who have given birth, an increasing number of full-term pregnancies was associated with a statistically significant decrease in the risk of breast cancer; risk was reduced by 14% for each additional birth.” 11
STDs & Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

  • “The presence of Chlamydia in the cervical canal at the time of abortion in asymptomatic women increases the risk of postabortal PID.” 12
  • Of patients who have a Chlamydia infection at the time of abortion, 23% will develop PID within 4 weeks. 13,14,15,16
  • “PID can lead to serious consequences including infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tube or elsewhere outside of the womb), abscess formation, and chronic pelvic pain.” 17
Mental Health
  • Research suggests that women who have had abortions may be at increased risk for mental health problems. 18
  • “Women who had undergone an abortion experienced an increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was shown to be attributable to abortion.” 19
  • Some women who have experienced an abortion report symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 20 Some of those symptoms may include:
    • Regret
    • Grief
    • Sadness/Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Guilt/Shame
    • Suicidal thoughts

If you have had an abortion and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important for your emotional and physical health that you not ignore them. Contact us for a referral to a licensed counselor.

Infertility and Future Childbearing
Complications that can arise from induced abortion, such as infection and damage to the uterus, can lead to infertility and increased risks of future childbearing.

In the case of medical abortion, the risks for these complications are increased  in women who have a high risk of uterine rupture; an intrauterine device (IUD) in place; uncontrolled high blood pressure; diabetes, certain heart or blood vessel diseases; severe liver, kidney or lung disease; take a blood thinner or certain steroid medications; or smoke heavily.21

First-trimester surgical abortion by dilation and curettage (D&C) “can result in uterine synechiae (or Asherman’s Syndrome), which increase the risk of subsequent midtrimester spontaneous abortions and low birthweight deliveries.”22  Incompetent cervix is also a preterm birth risk associated with surgical abortion. “Symptoms related to cervical incompetence were found among 75% of women who undergo forced dilation for abortion.”23

Abortion and Sexual Dysfunction
Some women experience sexual dysfunction after an abortion.24 The following issues can often be associated with early pregnancy termination:

  • Increased vaginal dryness
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Loss of orgasm ability
  • Dyspareunia (painful intercourse)

Tell your doctor if you have had an abortion and are experiencing any of these symptoms. They may be able to help.

Improving Abortion Safety

The US has come a long way in making abortion “safe and affordable for all women.” However, abortion does have risks. This fact is true for abortion providers in Buffalo, Rochester and throughout the US, whether medical services are provided within an affluent neighborhood or a poverty-stricken one. The risk associated with any medical procedure does not change based on price.

Any physician will agree that safety is not a guarantee when it comes to medicine and is why you must sign a consent form before beginning any treatment. That includes medical and surgical abortions.

Could abortionists in Western NY improve the safety of abortion? Yes! For instance, routine pre-abortion ultrasound scanning is not required in NYS. That means that rather than providing a woman (and her doctor) with a full picture of what’s going on inside, issues such as ectopic pregnancy are diagnosed solely on a woman’s symptoms. However, ectopic pregnancies can be asymptomatic25 and medical abortions should not be given with an ectopic pregnancy.26 There is also a possibility that the woman is not even pregnant. It is never safe for a woman to receive a medical procedure that is not necessary. CompassCare provides free ultrasound screening at every appointment.

Doctors are also not obliged to routinely prescribe antibiotics to women who receive a medical abortion. According to the US National Library of Medicine, “A small number of patients died due to infections that they developed after they used mifepristone and misoprostol to end their pregnancies” and women may not realize the severity of their infection until it’s too late.27 A weakened immune system can increase your risk of infection, as well as untreated cases of chlamydia or gonorrhea (also often asymptomatic), which could lead to an infection known as PID that can seriously affect a woman’s future reproductive health.

Is there such a thing as a “safe abortion?” There are documented complications for both medical abortion and surgical abortion.28

With any type of abortion, “if the abortion is infected or complicated by pre-existing and nontreated STDs, risks of secondary infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and fetal loss increase.”29  Studies have consistently shown that induced abortion increases the incidence of subsequent preterm delivery and also depression30, which can ultimately effect a woman’s decision to have more children in the future.

There is much research that still needs to be done on this topic.  “Despite strong recommendations for substantive research, and the clear need for women to have accurate information as they execute their autonomy, current data remain sparse, studies are small and methodologically flawed, and the conclusions are often intertwined with the political agendas of their authors and publishers.”31

Contact CompassCare for a free consultation regarding all of your abortion options. We also offer free STD testing, pregnancy testing, and ultrasounds. Let us lay out your options in a safe, unpressured, nonjudgmental environment.

Medically Reviewed By:


1 Davis A, Westhoff C, De Nonno L (2000). Bleeding patterns after early abortion with mifepristone and misoprostol or manual vacuum aspiration. J Am Med Womens Assoc 55(3 Suppl):141-4

2 Harwood B, Meckstroth KR, Mishell Dr, Jain JK (2001). Serum beta-human chorionic gonadotropin levels and endometrial thickness after medical abortion. Contraception 63(4):255-6.

3 Shah PS, Zoa J (2009). Induced termination of pregnancy and low birth weight and preterm birth: A systematic review and meta-analyses. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 116(11): 1425-42

4 Swingle HM, Colaizy TT, Zimmerman MB, Morriss FH (2009). Abortion and the risk of subsequent preterm birth. J Reprod Med, 54(2): 95-108.

5 Hardy G, Benjamin A, Abenhaim HA (2013). Effect of induced abortions on early preterm births and adverse perinatal outcomes. JOGC, 35(2): 138-43.

6 Moster D, Lie RT, Markestad T (2008). Long-term medical and social consequences of preterm birth. NEJM, 359(3): 262-73.

7 Ibid.

8 Limperopoulos C, Bassan H, Sullivan NR, Soul JS, Robertson RL, Moore M, Ringer SA, Volpe JJ, du Plessis AJ (2008). Positive screening for autism in ex-preterm infants: Prevalence and risk factors. Pediatrics, 121(4): 758-65

9 Burd L, Severud R, Kerbeshian J, Klug MG (1999). Prenatal and perinatal risk factors for Autism. J Perinat Med, 27(6): 441-50.

10 Huang Y, Zhang X, Li W, Song F, Dai H, Wang J, Gao Y, Liu X, Chen C, Yan Y, Wang Y, Chen K (2014). “A meta-analysis of the association between induced abortion and breast cancer risk among Chinese females.” Cancer Cause Control, 25(2): 227-36.

11 Andrieu N, Goldgar DE, Easton DF, Rookus M, Brohet R, Antoniou AC, et al. (2006). Pregnancies, breast-feeding, and breast cancer risk in the international BRACA1/2 carrier cohort study. J Natl Cancer Inst, 98(8): 535-44.

12 Westergaard L, Phillipsen T, Scheibel J (1982). Significance of cervical Chlamydia trachomatis infection in postabortal pelvic inflammatory disease. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 68(5): 668-90.

13 Ovigstad E, et al. (1983). Pelvic inflammatory disease associated with Chlamydia trachomatis infection after therapeutic abortion. Br J Vener Dis, 59: 189-92

14 Duthie SJ, et al. (1987). Morbidity after termination of pregnancy in first trimester. Genitourin Med, 63(3): 182-7

15 Stray-Pedersen B, et al. (1991). Induced abortion: Microbiological screening and medical complications. Infection 19(5): 305-8

16 Heisterberg L, et al. (1987). The role of vaginal secretory immunoglobulin a, gardnerella vaginalis, anaerobes, and Chlamydia trachomatis in post abortal pelvic inflammatory disease. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 66(2): 99-102.

17 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – CDC fact sheet. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/std/PID/STDFact-PID.htm

18 Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ, Ridder E (2006). Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health. J Child Psychol Psyc 47(1):16-24.

19 Coleman, PK (2011). “Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995-2009.” Br J Psych, 199: 180-6.

20 Coyle CT, Coleman PK, Rue VM (2010). Inadequate preabortion counseling and decision conflict as predictors of subsequent relationship difficulties and psychological stress in men and women. Traumatology 16(1):16-30.

21 The Mayo Clinic (2010). Medical Abortion, Risks. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/medical-abortion/MY00819/DSECTION=risks

22 The Global Library of Women’s Medicine. (2011). Long-Term Risks of Surgical Abortion. Carol J. Hogue, PhD, MPH. Terry Professor of Matrenal/Child Health, Professor of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georga (Vol 6, Cap 124).  Retrieved from: http://www.glowm.com/index.html?p=glowm.cml/section_view&articleid=440

23 Dr. Ren, “Cervical Incompetence – Aetiology and Management”, Medical Journal of Australia (December 29, 1993), Volume 60. Retrieved from: http://www.gargaro.com/healthproblems.html

24 Bianchi-Demicheli F, Ortigue S (2007). Insight of women’s sexual function and intimate relationships after termination of pregnancy: A review of recent findings and future perspectives. Curr Womens Health Rev 3(1):31-41; Bianchi-Demicheli F, Perrin E, Ludicke F, Bianchi PG, Chatton D, Campana A (2002). Termination of pregnancy and women’s sexuality prix. Gynecol Obstet Invest 53(1):48-53; Fok WY, Siu SN, Lau TK (2005). Sexual dysfunction after a first trimester induced abortion in a Chinese population. Eur J Obstet Gyn R B 126(2):255-8.

25 Badr S., Ghareep A., Abdulla L., Hassanein R. (March 2013). The Egyptian Journal of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Volume 44, Issue 1. “Ectopic pregnancy in uncommon implantation sites.” Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378603X1200099X

26 U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “Mifeprex Questions and Answers.” March 30, 2016. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm111328.htm

27 Medline Plus. “Mifepristone (Mifeprex).” May 15, 2016. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a600042.html

28 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR); “Abortion Surveillance – United States, 2013.” November 25, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/ss/ss6512a1.htm#T23_down

29 The Global Library of Women’s Medicine. (2011). Long-Term Risks of Surgical Abortion. Carol J. Hogue, PhD, MPH. Terry Professor of Matrenal/Child Health, Professor of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georga (Vol 6, Cap 124).  Retrieved from: http://www.glowm.com/index.html?p=glowm.cml/section_view&articleid=440

30 Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey: January 2003 – Volume 58 – Issue 1 – pp 67-79. Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced Abortion: Review of the Evidence. http://journals.lww.com/obgynsurvey/Abstract/2003/01000/Long_Term_Physical_and_Psychological_Health.23.aspx

31 Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey: January 2003 – Volume 58 – Issue 1 – pp 67-79. Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced Abortion: Review of the Evidence. http://journals.lww.com/obgynsurvey/Abstract/2003/01000/Long_Term_Physical_and_Psychological_Health.23.aspx

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