Despite remaining controversial – especially in the eyes of legislators – remains a common procedure. Statistics from the World Health Organization show that 61% of unintended pregnancies and 29% of planned pregnancies end in abortion. However, 49% of abortions are unsafe and 97% of these take place in developing countries.
There’s a lot of misinformation about the risks that come with abortions, including its impact on future fertility. When done safely and with proper follow-up care, abortions can be completely safe and have no long-term impact on a woman’s overall health, including her ability to get pregnant again. But the risks of abortions on fertility largely depend on the type of procedure performed.
Below, we discuss all you need to know about how affects fertility and how you can safeguard your health if you choose to end a pregnancy.
Abortion’s Impact On Fertility
For most people who have an abortion, it doesn’t affect their future fertility. Healthline explains it’s possible to get pregnant within a few weeks of abortion, even if you haven’t gotten a period yet.
This is because an abortion restarts the menstrual cycle. Ovulation usually takes place within 2 weeks of the cycle starting over. However, how quickly you can get pregnant post-abortion depends on how far along you were when the termination took place.
Complications Can Cause Fertility Issues
In most cases, having an abortion doesn’t cause difficulty becoming pregnant in the future. If a person does experience fertility problems later in life, this is often due to other causes unrelated to the terminated pregnancy.
However, like with any medical procedure, abortions carry risks. These risks vary depending on the type of abortion the person undergoes. In rare instances, side effects from a termination may cause difficulty becoming pregnant.
As the NHS explains, it’s rare but possible to develop an infection after a surgical abortion. If it expands to the fallopian tubes and ovaries, it may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This can cause permanent damage and has been linked to a higher risk of infertility as well as ectopic pregnancy.
The symptoms of PID can include:
- Pain during sex
- Difficulty urinating
- Abdominal, pelvic pain
- Unusual, heavy vaginal discharge
- Vaginal discharge with a strong odor
PID is most commonly caused by sexually transmitted bacteria, not abortions. If you develop an infection following termination, you’ll likely be given antibiotics to treat it before it spreads. There’s a low risk it will result in PID.
Mayo Clinic explains that women who undergo surgical abortions using a curet are at a higher risk of experiencing scarring to the inner lining of the uterus. This is a condition known as Asherman’s Syndrome. The more surgical abortions a person undergoes, the higher the risk.
Asherman’s Syndrome is a condition that’s acquired, meaning it develops after trauma to the uterus. It can be caused by a variety of medical procedures. Asherman’s Syndrome has also been linked to a history of pelvic infections and cancer treatments, like radiation.
But it can also occur after surgeries like cesarean sections, hysterectomies, and dilation and curettages (D&C), which is sometimes required after a miscarriage. Likewise, it can be caused by surgical abortions.
Asherman’s Syndrome can cause difficulty with getting pregnant, though there are treatment options.
How Long To Wait To Get Pregnant
Even though you can get pregnant within weeks of an abortion, it may be best for you to wait. Research has found that doctors generally instruct patients to wait at least 3 months following the abortion before trying to conceive. This allows the body time to rest and heal.
However, the ideal time to wait is entirely up to you. Having an abortion can be physically and others mentally challenging, so some people may need more time than to feel better.
Furthermore, in the rare instances, you experience post-abortion complications, your doctor may advise you to wait longer before trying to conceive, even if you emotionally feel ready to be pregnant again. Follow your doctor’s instructions that are specific to your situation.
Risk Of Prenatal Complications
It’s not only that abortion may cause difficulty getting pregnant. In rare instances, it’s been linked to a higher likelihood of experiencing prenatal complications.
However, the risk depends on the type of abortion performed. While medical abortions are not generally believed to increase the likelihood of pregnancy complications, some research shows surgical abortions may carry a slight risk.
As Mayo Clinic explains, one study from 2015 found that surgical abortions may increase the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight. Another study found that surgical abortions in the first trimester may raise the risk of miscarriage in later pregnancies.
However, it’s important to note that this research is limited as well as conflicting. Other studies have found that abortions don’t increase the risk of pregnancy loss. More research is needed to understand what it is about abortions that may increase the risk of prenatal complications, if at all.
Surgical Abortions Carry More Risks
As has been emphasized, the risk of abortions on fertility largely depends on the type performed. In general, surgical abortions carry more risk than medical ones.
This is because they’re more invasive – while medical abortions require the individual to take a pill to induce the body to terminate, surgical abortions involve the removal of the fetal matter from the uterus.
Healthline explains the risk of surgical abortions including:
- Retained tissue
- Uterine Perforation
- Cervical tears, lacerations
- Allergic reactions to medication
However, not all of these side effects can cause fertility problems. Additionally, the sooner the complication is treated, the less likely it is to create long-term health problems.
Conversely, research has shown that medical abortions do not increase the risk of fertility problems. One study specifically determined it doesn’t raise the risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, low birth weight, and premature delivery.
The Importance Of Safe Abortion
The risk of experiencing any complications after an abortion is lower when the procedure is performed by a licensed medical professional in a safe, sterile environment. This is why having access to safe abortions is so important.
If you choose to have an abortion, please seek out an experienced medical professional, one who is also knowledgeable about after-care.
If your abortion was necessary for medical reasons and/or you had a surgical termination, follow-up care is just as important as the procedure. This lowers your risk of complications, and in the rare instance they occur, it ensures you can get proper treatment right away. This will safeguard your overall health, including your future fertility.
Please speak to your doctor for more information on the risks of abortion and how to safely terminate a pregnancy should you choose to do so.
Sources: NHS, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Healthline, BMJ, Academic, AJOG, NEJM, WHO,
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