Medical and Psychological Complications of Abortion

Abortion is never an easy decision.

Although there are many factors to consider when deciding whether abortion, adoption, or raising a child yourself is the best option, accurate information regarding the potential medical complications of abortion is important if you are coping with an unplanned pregnancy.

Common Abortion Side Effects

In the United States, approximately 40 percent of women with unplanned pregnancies decide to have abortions. This means that roughly one in three women have had an abortion by the time they are 45 years old. Most women who have an abortion will have no lasting complications, but no medical procedure is completely without risk.

Physical side effects of abortion can vary, but the most common include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild abdominal pain or cramping

Doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics after an abortion to reduce the risk of infection. If you are given antibiotics, it is very important to take the medication exactly as prescribed.

After having an abortion, you should begin menstruation within four to six weeks. It is possible to become pregnant soon after, so you'll need to use a reliable birth control method if you wish to avoid another unplanned pregnancy.

Serious Medical Complications of Abortion

After having an abortion, a woman should seek immediate medical attention if she notices the following:

  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Fever above 100.4 F
  • Bleeding that is heavier than her normal menstrual period
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Several back pain
  • Signs that indicate she may still be pregnant

Serious medical complications of abortion can include:

  • Damage to the cervix
  • Scarring in the uterine lining
  • Perforation of the uterus
  • Damage to the bowels
  • Damage to the bladder
  • Infection
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Death

If the procedure is performed correctly, abortion does not affect a woman's future fertility. It does not increase the risk of birth defects, premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or infant death in future pregnancies.

Although there have been several attempts to link abortion to an increase in a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, a relationship between these two factors has never been proven.

Post-Abortion Syndrome

The term "post-abortion syndrome" is sometimes used to describe the negative affects of abortion on a woman's mental health. In some cases, a woman can develop symptoms that are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder after having an abortion.

Some of the symptoms associated with post-abortion syndrome include:

  • Frequent dreams of the experience
  • Difficulty forming strong emotional attachments
  • Trouble maintaining healthy intimate relationships
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Insomnia
  • Hostility and anger
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts

These symptoms may occur immediately after having an abortion or not until several years later. Post-abortion syndrome is most common if the woman feels like she was pressured into having an abortion against her will, although mental health issues related to a past abortion sometimes occur when a woman later gives birth to her first child. With counseling from a qualified mental health professional, however, post abortion syndrome can be managed.

Abortion Safety and Roe v. Wade

Before Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman's legal right to choose abortion as an option for coping with an unplanned pregnancy, between 5,000 and 10,000 women in the United States died each year as the result of illegal abortions performed by poorly trained individuals with little knowledge of the procedure. Some women died during the procedure itself, but most passed away as the result of infection or hemorrhaging in the days that followed. Since they had broken the law by obtaining abortions, they were often reluctant to seek proper care until it was too late.

Today, 95 percent of unsafe abortions take place in the developing world. In these areas, medical complications of abortion are a significant cause of maternal mortality and morbidity.

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Medical and Psychological Complications of Abortion