Risks Associated with Abortion

Medical Risks
A woman’s risk of dying from a legal abortion is very low. Abortions performed early in pregnancy have the lowest risk. Women who have an abortion do not have any known increased risk of problems in future pregnancies. Women who have D & Es or complications from their abortion procedure also have a low risk of problems in future pregnancies.

Each woman reacts differently to an abortion. Nearly all women undergoing an abortion have some pain or discomfort, ranging in intensity from mild to very severe. Serious medical complications rarely occur from a legal abortion. Potential complications may include:

  • Incomplete abortion. The uterus may not be completely emptied which may cause heavy bleeding and a repeat procedure may be required.
  • Heavy bleeding. Some bleeding after an abortion procedure is common. Heavy bleeding is uncommon however and, may need to be treated with medication or repeat suction.
  • Blood clots. Blood clots in the uterus may cause severe cramping and may require removal with suction or medication.
  • Cervical injury. The opening of the uterus, the cervix, may tear during the procedure. Injury to the cervix occurs in less than 1% of abortion procedures.
  • Puncturing of the uterus. A medical instrument used in an abortion procedure may go through the wall of the uterus, although this is rare. Depending on the severity of the perforation, it can lead to infection, heavy bleeding, or both. Surgery may be required to repair the uterus and, in rare cases, a hysterectomy may be necessary.

Emotional Reactions

The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion states that women seek abortions for different reasons, at different times in their pregnancy, have different abortion procedures, and have differing backgrounds. Due to this wide variation, a single statement on how abortion affects women emotionally would be misleading.

The Task Force report states that the best scientific evidence indicates that for women having only one abortion procedure, the risk of mental health problems after the procedure is no greater than those experienced among women who carry a pregnancy to birth. There is some evidence of elevated risks for poorer mental health among women with multiple abortion procedures.

Women may experience sadness; grief; and feelings of loss, depression, or anxiety after an abortion procedure. Women who experience these symptoms may benefit from discussing them with a trained mental health professional.

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