Abortion & Pregnancy Risks


First trimester abortion is considered minor surgery. The risk of complications for the woman increases with advancing gestational age. To learn more about the methods of abortion and when each is used, click here.

Below is a description of the risks that have been associated with abortion:

Pelvic Infection: Bacteria (germs) from the vagina or cervix may enter the uterus and cause an infection. Antibiotics may clear up such an infection. In rare cases, a repeat suction, hospitalization or surgery may be needed. Infection rates are less than 1 percent for suction curettage, 1.5 percent for D&E, and 5 percent for labor induction.

Incomplete abortion: Fetal parts or other products of pregnancy may not be completely emptied from the uterus, requiring further medical procedures. Incomplete abortion may result in infection and bleeding. The reported rate of such complications is less than 1 percent after a D&E; whereas, following a labor induction procedure, the rate may be as high as 36 percent.

Blood clots in the uterus: Blood clots that cause severe cramping occur in about 1 percent of all abortions. The clots usually are removed by a repeat suction curettage.

Heavy bleeding: Some amount of bleeding is common following an abortion. Heavy bleeding (hemorrhaging) is not common and may be treated by repeat suction, medication or, rarely, surgery. Ask the doctor to explain heavy bleeding and what to do if it occurs.

Cut or torn cervix: The opening of the uterus may be torn while it is being stretched open to allow medical instruments to pass through and into the uterus. This happens in less than 1percent of first trimester abortions.

Perforation of the uterus wall: A medical instrument may go through the wall of the uterus. The reported rate is 1 out of every 500 abortions. Depending on the severity, perforation can lead to infection, heavy bleeding or both. Surgery may be required to repair the uterine tissue, and in the most severe cases hysterectomy may be required.

Anesthesia-related complications: As with other surgical procedures, anesthesia increases the risk of complications associated with abortion. The reported risks of anesthesia-related complications is around 1 per 5,000 abortions.

Rh Immune Globulin Therapy: Genetic material found on the surface of red blood cells is known as the Rh Factor. If a woman and her fetus have different Rh factors, she must receive medication to prevent the development of antibodies that would endanger future pregnancies.LONG-TERM MEDICAL RISKS

Future childbearing: Early abortions that are not complicated by infection do not cause infertility or make it more difficult to carry a later pregnancy to term. Complications associated with an abortion or having many abortions may make it difficult to have children.

Because every person is different, one woman's emotional reaction to an abortion may be different from another's. After an abortion, a woman may have both positive and negative feelings, even at the same time. One woman may feel relief, both that the procedure is over and that she is no longer pregnant. Another woman may feel sad that she was in a position where all of her choices were hard ones. She may feel sad about ending the pregnancy. For a while after the abortion she also may feel a sense of emptiness or guilt, wondering whether or not her decision was right.

Some women who describe these feelings find they go away with time. Others find them more difficult to overcome. Certain factors can increase the chance that a woman may have a difficult adjustment to an abortion. One of these is not having any counseling before consenting to an abortion. When help and support from family and friends are not available, a woman's adjustment to the decision may be more of a problem. Other reasons why a woman's long-term response to an abortion can be poor may be related to past events in her life. For example, negative feelings could last longer if she has not had much practice making major life decisions or already has serious emotional problems. Talking with a professional and objective counselor can help a woman to consider her decision fully before she takes any action.


Although every pregnancy has some risk of problems, continuing a pregnancy and delivering a baby is usually a safe, healthy process. Based on data from the CDC, the risk of dying as a direct result of pregnancy and childbirth is less than 10 in 100,000 live births.  At 22 in 100,000, the risk is higher for African-Americans.

One out of 8,475 women dies from pregnancy complications. The most common causes of death for pregnant women are:

  • Emboli (blood clots affecting the heart and brain);
  • Eclampsia (high blood pressure complications affecting pregnancy);
  • Heavy bleeding (Hemorrhage);
  • Sepsis (severe infection);
  • Cerebral vascular accidents (stroke, bleeding in the brain); and
  • Anesthesia-related deaths.

Altogether, these causes account for 80 percent of all deaths relating to a woman's pregnancy. Unknown or uncommon causes account for the remaining 20 percent of deaths relating to pregnancy. Women who have chronic severe diseases are at greater risk of death than are healthy women.

Continuing your pregnancy also includes a risk of experiencing complications that are not always life-threatening.

  • Approximately 15 to 20 or every 100 pregnant women require Caesarean delivery (C-section).
  • One in 10 women may develop infection during or after delivery.
  • About 1 in 20 pregnant women has blood pressure problems.
  • One in 20 women suffer from excessive blood loss at delivery.

Women who have had a first full-term pregnancy at an early age have reduced risks of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer. Furthermore, the risks of these cancers decline with each additional full-term pregnancy.

Pregnancies that are terminated afford no protection; thus, a woman who chooses abortion over continuing her
pregnancy would lose the protective benefit.

If you have a family history of breast cancer or clinical findings of breast disease, you should seek medical advice from your physician before deciding whether to remain pregnant or have an abortion. It is always important to tell your doctor about your complete pregnancy history.

Labor is when a pregnant woman's uterus contracts and pushes or delivers the baby from her body. The baby may be delivered through the woman's vagina or by cesarean section. A cesarean section is a surgical procedure.

The following are possible side effects and risks associated with Vaginal Delivery:

  • Injury to the bladder or rectum;
  • A hole (fistula) between the bladder and vagina or the rectum and vagina;
  • Heavy bleeding (hemorrhaging);
  • Inability to get pregnant due to infection or complication from an operation;
  • Emergency treatment for any of the above problems, including the possible need to treat with an operation, medicines, or blood transfusion; and
  • Rarely, death.

The following are possible side effects and risks associated with Cesarean Birth (C-section):

  • Injury to the bowel or bladder;
  • Inability to get pregnant due to infection or complication from an operation;
  • Heavy bleeding (hemorrhaging);
  • Injury to the tube (ureter) between the kidney and bladder;
  • A possible hysterectomy as a result of complication or injury during the procedure.
  • Complications from anesthesia such as respiratory problems, headaches, or drug reactions.
  • Emergency treatment for any of the above problems, including the possible need to treat with an operation, medicines, or a blood transfusion.
  • Rarely, death.

After the birth of a baby, women often feel a number of powerful emotions. Many new moms experience baby blues following childbirth, which commonly include mood swings and crying spells. Typically, the symptoms of baby blues fade quickly, within a few days or weeks. Most women find that the best treatment for baby blue is reassurance, support from family and friends, rest and time.

Some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. At first, postpartum depression may feel a lot like baby blues, but eventually it interferes with a mother's ability to care for her baby and handle other daily tasks. The Mayo Clinic recommends calling your doctor if the signs and symptoms of depression:

  • Don't fade after two weeks;
  • Are getting worse;
  • Make it hard for you to care for your baby;
  • Make it hard to complete everyday tasks; and
  • Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.