Risk & Complications of Abortion

The side effects and complications after an abortion can differ from case to case. Prior to the abortion, it is important that the woman receives counseling from a health professional to ensure that she knows what to expect in terms of recovery as well as risks of an abortion.

Complications and side effects of an abortion can last for up to four weeks after the procedure. Serious complications are more likely to occur in abortions performed after the first trimester but are not uncommon for abortions before the second trimester as well. These include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Stomach cramps caused by spasmodic uterine contractions
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting accompanied by nausea and fatigue. This can also be a sign of continued pregnancy so care has to be taken.
  • Bleeding and spotting
  • Sepsis or infection
  • Damage of the cervix – this could also include permanent scarring of the lining of the uterus or perforation of the uterus
  • Damage to other organs
  • Reactions to the anesthesia
  • In some cases it could even result in fatalities

If any of the following side effects are experienced after an abortion, emergency medical care is required:

  • Severe back and abdominal pain
  • Inability to stand due to the pain
  • Heavy, persistent bleeding
  • High fever
  • Pregnancy symptoms that continue even after the abortion
  • Foul smelling discharge from the vagina
  • Lack of bowel movements or change in bladder habits
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Dizziness or fainting spells
  • Bleeding from the IV sites

There are also a number of risks associated with abortions. It is imperative that you are informed of these before you make a decision to go through with the procedure:

  • Excessive bleeding in some abortion cases can lead to anemia and its accompanying health problems.
  • Anesthesia and certain types of medications used during the abortion could lead to severe allergic reactions and could also result in a heart attack or death.
  • Tools used for the abortion procedure can scar internal organs permanently and lead to infections that can affect the entire body or even end in loss of life.
  • A long-term risk of abortion is emotional trauma. Many women suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after the procedure and are plagued with feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness for years. This can escalate into full-blown depression or suicide if not taken care of in time.
  • Abortion may have a negative effect on the libido in case internal damage has occurred. An abortion may affect one’s sexual life by causing long-term emotional trauma. In such cases, the woman is more likely to turn to drug and alcohol abuse.
  • If the abortion is not carried out in a safe and hygienic manner, there is a risk of organ damage and infections that may affect the ability to conceive in the future.
  • A big risk, though a rare one is the possibility of a continuation of pregnancy even after an abortion is performed. In such cases, a second abortion will be required.
  • Normal risks associated with any surgical procedure such as blood clots. Deep Vein Thrombosis or heart problems are applicable to abortion procedures as well.
  • The period immediately after an abortion is also the most fertile. There is a very high risk of conceiving immediately. To avoid this, discuss alternative forms of contraception at the earliest.
  • Incessant bleeding, severe infections and organ damage caused by an abortion can ultimately lead to loss of life.

Frequently asked questions
  1. Deaths From Spontaneous Abortion in the United States, Stuart M. Berman, Trent MacKay, David A. Grimes, Nancy J. Binkin, JAMA. 1985;253(21):3119-3123.
  2. Mortality From Abortion and Childbirth: Are the Statistics Biased? Willard Cates, Jr, Jack C. Smith, Roger W. Rochat, David A. Grimes, JAMA. 1982;248(2):192-196.
  3. Abortion reform, RG Bubeck, J Am Osteopath Assoc June 1, 1972 71:842