Abortion may seem like a simple procedure but like any medical procedure there are risks that can occur. It is important to know the risks before scheduling an abortion. Our staff at Choices has up-to-date information on all abortion procedures as well as risks that can occur. Scheduling an appointment at our clinic not only allows you to verify your pregnancy but to also get all the information that you need to make a fully informed choice.
8 Documented Physical Risks:
Heavy Bleeding: Some bleeding after abortion is normal. However, if the cervix is torn or the uterus is punctured, there is a risk of severe bleeding known as hemorrhaging. When this happens, a blood transfusion (or rarely a removal of the uterus) may be required.
Incomplete Abortion: This occurs when fetal tissue remains in the uterus after the abortion is over. It can cause severe bleeding, infection, and a D&C may be required to complete the procedure.
Infection: Infection can develop from the insertion of medical instruments into the uterus or from fetal parts that are mistakenly left inside (known as an incomplete abortion). This may cause bleeding and/ or a pelvic infection requiring antibiotics, and may result in the need for a surgical procedure to fully empty the uterus. Infection may cause scarring of the pelvic organs.
Organ Damage: The cervix and/ or uterus may be cut, torn, or punctured by abortion instruments. This may cause excessive bleeding requiring surgical repair. Curettes and other abortion instruments may cause permanent scarring of the uterine lining. The risk of these types of complications increases with the length of the pregnancy. If complications occur, major surgery may be required, including removal of the uterus (known as hysterectomy). If the uterus is punctured or torn, there is also a risk that damage may occur to nearby organs such as the bowel and bladder.
Emboli: Clots may form in the bloodstream. If they break off and travel, they are known as “emboli”. These emboli can lodge in the lungs, causing illness and death.
Anesthesia Complications: Local anesthetics, sedatives, and pain medications may cause allergic reactions of various degrees of severity.
RH Sensititization: Pregnant women should be tested to determine if their blood type is Rh positive or Rh negative. All pregnant women who are Rh negative should receive an injection of Rhogam to prevent the formation of antibodies that may harm current or future pregnancies.
Death: In extreme cases, complications from abortion (excessive bleeding, infection, organ damage from a perforated uterus and adverse reactions to anesthesia) may lead to death. The risk of death immediately following an induced abortion performed at or below 8 weeks is extremely low (approximately 1 in a million) but increases with length of pregnancy. For pregnancies over 21 weeks, the risk of dying from an induced abortion is 91 in 1,000,000.
Potential Future Risks:
There is evidence of emotional, spiritual, physical and relationship risks following an abortion procedure. Most women say they initially felt relief and looked forward to their lives returning to normal. But some women report negative emotions after abortion, that linger, unresolved. For others, problems related to their abortion emerge months or even years later. At Choices we offer counseling to help process through these emotions.
Reference: Paul, M., Lichtenberg, E.S., Borgatta, L.Grimes, D.A. , Stubblefield P.G. & Creinin, M.. (2009), Surgical complications: Prevention and management. In Management of unintended and abnormal pregnancy: Comprehensive abortion care (p. 224-51, Chichester, UK; Wiley-Blackwell.