Risks of Abortion

As with any surgery or medical procedure, there are risks (side effects) that may occur with or after an abortion.  Typical side effects are abdominal pain and cramping, vaginal bleeding, and there can be nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  In most cases the procedure goes without problems, but serious complications can occur.  These can include:

Heavy bleeding: some bleeding after an abortion is normal.  However, heavy bleeding (or hemorrhage) can occur if there is a tear in the cervix or the uterus is punctured, if there is tissue left inside, if there is an infection or if the uterus does not contract well.  When this happens, a blood transfusion, antibiotic therpay or repeat surgery may be needed.  After medical/chemical abortion 1 in 100 women need surgery to stop the bleeding.

Infection: infection can develop from the insertion of medical instruments into the uterus, or if tissues is inadvertently left inside the uterus.  A pelvic infection may require hospitalization for treatment and can cause scarring of the uterus, tubes, and ovaries.  Some serious infections (sepsis) have resulted after medical abortion, causing death.

Incomplete abortion: some fetal parts/placental tissue may be mistakenly left inside the uterus.  Bleeding and infection may result and repeat surgery may be required.

Anesthesia: medications used for anesthesia during any surgery, although usually safe, can cause problems such as seizures, heart attack, and in extreme cases, even death.

Damage to the Cervix: The cervix can be cut, torn or damaged by the instruments requiring bleeding and need fo repair.  Multiple procedures may increase the risk of future premature birth.

Scarring of the Uterine Lining: Curettes and other abortion instruments can cause permanent scarring of the uterine lining leading to problems with periods as well as future pregnancies.

Perforation of the Uterus: The uterus may be punctured or torn by abortion instruments, just as in any D&C procedure.  The risk of this complication increases with the length of the pregnancy.  If this occurs, major surgery may be required, possibly with removal of the uterus (hysterectomy).

Damage to Internal Organs: When the uterus is punctured or torn, there is also a risk that damage will occur to surrounding organs, such as bowel, bladder, or surrounding blood vessels.

Death: Any of these complications, if extreme, can lead to death.  This complication is rare, but it is real.