Abortion is a medical procedure, which means it comes with some inherent risks and side effects. While these risks and side effects are typically minor, it’s still important to be aware of them so you can feel fully informed and comfortable with your abortion decision.
As you evaluate your unplanned pregnancy options, read on to find the information you need about the risks and side effects of abortion. Remember that this article should not be taken as medical advice; it’s important to talk to your doctor or abortion provider to learn more about the possible effects of abortion.
Abortion Side Effects
Every woman’s body is different, and not every woman will experience the same side effects after abortion. However, it’s important to be aware of the common side effects of an abortion — as well as some of the less common, potentially serious signs that something may be wrong.
These are some of the abortion effects you can expect to experience, depending on the type of abortion you choose:
Abortion Pill Side Effects
What are the side effects of a medical abortion? And how safe is the abortion pill?
Medical abortion, or the abortion pill, is typically very safe when taken under the direction of a doctor. But as with any medication, there are some common side effects of the abortion pill, including:
- heavy bleeding
- upset stomach
- mild fever
- breast tenderness
- breast discharge
Most of the side effects of medical abortion should subside quickly. If you are experiencing medical abortion side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or a fever more than 24 hours after taking the abortion medication, call your doctor right away. This could be a sign of an infection.
Bleeding and spotting may continue off and on for several weeks following a medical abortion. Your period should return to normal one to two months after the abortion. Unless you experience a rare and serious complication, you should not experience abortion pill side effects long-term; medical abortion should not impact your overall health or your ability to get pregnant in the future.
Remember, every woman’s body is different, and abortion pill effects will vary. Talk to your doctor to understand abortion pill side effects and risks before having a medical abortion.
Surgical Abortion Side Effects
Generally, the surgical abortion after-effects are pretty similar to the abortion pill side effects. Women commonly experience heavy bleeding and cramping following a surgical abortion procedure, but most are able to resume regular activities the next day.
However, if you experience excessive bleeding (soaking two maxi pads per hour for at least two hours), pain or cramping that doesn’t get better with pain medication, or a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, call your doctor right away. These after-abortion side effects could be the sign of a rare but serious complication.
Risks of Abortion
When completed legally by a doctor, abortion is a generally safe procedure, and there are very few serious health risks of abortion. However, it is still important to be aware of the following abortion risks so you can make a fully informed decision about your pregnancy:
- Excessive bleeding or blood loss
- Infection or sepsis
- Damage to the cervix, uterus or other organs
- Allergic reaction to abortion medication
- Incomplete abortion, meaning the pregnancy doesn’t end or pregnancy tissue is left in your uterus
- Blood clots in the uterus
In extreme cases, these abortion complications can lead to serious injury, illness or even death. However, it’s important to remember that this is rare, and the risk of abortion is relatively low, especially for procedures completed earlier in the pregnancy.
You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Heavy and persistent bleeding (soaking through two maxi pads or more per hour)
- Severe abdominal pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away with medication
- Fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Signs that you are still pregnant
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea more than 24 hours after the abortion
While these abortion health risks can be serious, it’s also important to know that there are some myths out there about the dangers of abortion. Read the following for answers to common questions about surgical and abortion pill risks.
Is Abortion Safe?
It is one of the first questions on the minds of many women considering abortion: Are abortions safe? What are the actual chances of having an unsafe abortion?
If you are thinking about terminating your pregnancy, here’s what you need to know about abortion safety:
- Less than 1 percent of women experience serious abortion complications.
- Less than 1 in 100,000 women die during a medical abortion performed during the first nine week s of pregnancy.
- While second- and third-trimester abortions may involve more intense side effects and heightened risks, they are still considered low-risk medical procedures.
The best way to ensure your abortion is a safe abortion is to talk with your doctor. They can help you understand your abortion risk based on your individual circumstances and health history.
Do Abortions Hurt?
Now you know that the risks of abortion are relatively low. But what can you expect during the actual abortion procedure? Does it hurt to get an abortion? Are abortions painful?
For most women, medical abortion will feel like having a miscarriage, which can include strong cramps and heavy bleeding. Medical abortion pain may be very similar to strong menstrual cramps, but every woman’s body is different. For some, abortion pill pain is severe and may require prescription pain medications provided by your doctor. For others, medical abortion may just be somewhat uncomfortable.
Similarly, every woman may experience different levels of surgical abortion pain. Many women describe feeling pressure and cramping during and after a surgical abortion. Depending on the type of surgical abortion procedure you are having, your doctor may provide pain and numbing medications or sedation to help reduce abortion pain and make the procedure more comfortable.
Does Abortion Hurt the Baby?
Some women are also concerned about what their unborn baby will feel during the abortion procedure. They may wonder: Do babies feel pain during abortion?
While a fetus can respond to stress and other stimuli at 20 weeks, most scientists agree that fetuses are unlikely to feel pain until around the 24th week of pregnancy. Most abortions are completed much earlier than 24 weeks, and many states ban abortions at that point — so it is unlikely that a baby will feel pain during an abortion.
Can Abortion Cause Infertility?
Just because a woman is considering abortion doesn’t mean she won’t want to have children at some point in the future. In fact, many women worry: Does abortion cause infertility?
Despite the myths, there’s no evidence that surgical or medical abortion impacts the ovaries or eggs, meaning a woman’s fertility after abortion shouldn’t be affected. In fact, a medical abortion should have no effect on possible future pregnancies.
However, with a surgical abortion, in which instruments are inserted through the cervix and into the uterus, there is always the rare but serious risk of scarring or damage to the reproductive organs. Especially when a woman has had multiple abortion procedures, this may increase the risk of infertility after abortion. However, damage to reproductive organs is still rare, and many times, scar tissue can be surgically removed to restore fertility after abortion.
Some research also suggests potential links between abortion and preterm birth, low birth weight and placenta problems in future pregnancies. If you are concerned about the potential effects of abortion on your ability to conceive and carry future pregnancies, talk to your doctor to better understand the risks involved.
Does Abortion Cause Breast Cancer?
Another common concern for women considering abortion is the possible link between abortion and breast cancer. Some research has suggested that there may be a link between breast cancer and abortion because abortion interrupts the normal cycle of hormones during pregnancy.
However, while different studies have found varying results, the American Cancer Society and other health groups state that there is currently not enough evidence to support the claim that abortion causes breast cancer.
Evaluating Your Risk
Again, every woman’s body is different. Your doctor will help you better understand the potential risks and side effects of abortion in your individual situation.
Ultimately, you are the only person who can determine whether abortion is the right unplanned pregnancy option for you. While medical risk is one factor to consider, there are many other pros and cons of abortion to take into account.
If you are struggling to make a final abortion decision, remember that there are people who can help. Contact your doctor, an abortion clinic, adoption agency or another counselor to get the support and information you need to make the best choice for yourself and your baby.