Abortion Risks and Side Effects

Before taking any medication or having any type of medical procedure done, it’s important to know the risks and any possible side effects associated with the medicine or procedure. It’s no different when someone is considering an abortion.

Abortion risks and side effects vary by how far along the pregnancy is and the procedure performed. If you are pregnant, White Oak Women’s Center can help you verify how far along you are, what kind of abortion procedure you qualify for, and discuss the risks and side effects of that particular procedure.

Common Side Effects

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Uterine cramping
  • Vaginal bleeding – may be heavier with medication abortion than with surgical abortion, but not always. 1
  • Irregular bleeding, spotting
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Dizziness, feeling faint

Note: You may ovulate within a couple weeks after the procedure which means you could get pregnant before you resume your normal period cycles.

Possible Complications

  • Allergic reactions to medications
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Damage to the cervix and/or uterus, may lead to scarring
  • Perforated uterus or bowel
  • Retained pieces or incomplete abortion, requiring a surgical procedure

Future Health Risks After an Abortion

Future Pre-Term Births

  • A review of records from 9 different University Maternity Hospitals in Italy from April to December 2008 studied the independent predictors of spontaneous preterm birth. The goal of the study was identify maternal risk factors related to spontaneous preterm birth. Results of the study showed that there was a an increased risk of preterm birth in overweight women, women whose jobs were in heavy work, a history of previous abortion or previous cesarean section, and/or a history of pre-term delivery. 2
  • A review of cohort and case-control studies from Europe, Asia and the US was conducted to explore the association between induced or spontaneous abortion and the risk of subsequent preterm birth. The authors determined that there was a modestly increased risk for pre-term birth following one or more induced and spontaneous abortion. 3
  • A study of 17,916 women conducted between 2001 and 2006 found “a significant increase in the risk of preterm delivery in women with a history of previous induced abortion.” Women with one prior induced abortion were 45% more likely to deliver by 32 weeks, 71% more likely to deliver by 28 weeks, and 117% more likely to deliver by 26 weeks. 4

Breast Cancer

  • A 2014 paper found “worldwide evidence for a link between induced abortion and breast cancer,” called the ABC link. The authors reviewed reports from eight different countries during the years 2009-2013 and found that there was evidence of an ABC link in 10 of the 11 reports. Additionally, the paper finds a “substantial causality case for an induced abortion-breast cancer link.” A 2007 abortion risks study by an Oxford researcher concluded that the abortion link to breast cancer risk is the “single best predictor of the occurrence of breast cancer in all eight European countries studies.” 5
  • A French research project explored breast cancer (BC), pregnancy, and genetics; results found that there was “an association between incomplete pregnancies and a higher BC risk…among women who had at least three incomplete pregnancies…” This risk did appear to be limited to incomplete pregnancies that occurred prior to the first full-term pregnancy. 6

STDs and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection involving the female reproductive organs. It is a complication of some STDs including chlamydia and gonorrhea. While PID can be treated, the treatment won’t reverse damage that has already occurred to the body. Untreated PID can create scar tissue that can lead to blocked fallopian tubes, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and/or long-term pelvic/abdominal pain. [1.Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 May 2015. Web. 18 June 2015.]
  • An article in Human Reproduction found that “[p]elvic infection complicates up to 12% of induced abortions and has an adverse effect on future reproductive outcome.” 7
  • A study of 53,652 women in China found that 32% of the women who had experienced abortion, 21% of the women had undergone one abortion, 7.6% had had two abortions, and 4% had had at least three abortions. The authors write that “[w]omen who underwent induced abortions had a higher prevalence rate of reproductive tract infections.” 8

Mental Health

  • Both men and women who have experienced an abortion event and feel that they received inadequate counseling report experiencing relationship problems, symptoms of intrusion, hyperarousal, and avoidance – all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 9
  • Abortion has been found to be a risk factor for a variety of mental health problems such as panic attacks, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and major depression, among others. Also, abortion is a risk factor in the development of substance abuse disorders such as alcohol and drug abuse and dependence. According to the study, “abortion was implicated in between 4.3% and 16.6% of the incidence of these disorders.” 10
  • A Canadian study using US data found that “abortion was associated with an increased likelihood of several mental disorders—mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders (24.7%), as well as suicidal ideation (5.8%) and suicide attempts.” 11
  • One of the most recent comprehensive literature reviews found that having an unwanted pregnancy is associated with increased risks of mental health problems. However, there was no difference in mental health between women who had had an abortion and those who had not. This review did find that having a history of mental health problems prior to an abortion was a reliable predictor of post-abortion mental health problems. 12

Are you facing an unplanned pregnancy? Schedule an appointment for a free Pre-Termination Evaluation at White Oak Women’s Center to learn more about your options and the potential risks and side effects of an abortion.

More Information about Abortion


  1. Davis, AR, et al (2007) Bleeding patterns after misoprostol vs surgical treatment of early pregnancy failure: results from a randomized trial. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: 196(1); 31.e1-31e7
  2. Di Renzo, GC, et al (2011) Maternal risk factors for preterm birth: a country-based population analysis. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 159(2): 342-6
  3. Swingle, HM, et.al (2009) Abortion and the risk of subsequent preterm birth: a systematic review with meta-analyses. Journal of Reproductive Medicine for the Obstetrician and Gynecologist 54(2): 95-108
  4. Hardy, G. et al. (2013) Effect of induced abortion on early preterm births and adverse perinatal outcomes. J Obstet Gynaecol Can 35(2):138-143
  5. Schneider II, AP, et al (2014) The breast cancer epidemic: 10 facts. The Linacre Quarterly 81 (3), 244-277
  6. LeCarpentier, J, et al. (2012) Variation in breast cancer risk associated with factors related to pregnancies according to truncating mutation location, in the French National BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carrier cohort (GENEPSO). Breast Cancer Research 14:R99
  7. Penney, GC. (1997) Preventing infective sequelae of abortion. Human Reproduction 12(11 Suppl): 107-12
  8. Zhang RJ, et al (2011) Study on the correlation between induced abortion and reproductive tract infections. Zhonghua Liu Xing Bing Xue Za Zhi 32(1): 29-32
  9. Coyle, CT, et al (2010) Inadequate Preabortion Counseling and Decision Conflict as Predictors of Subsequent Relationship Difficulties and Psychological Stress in Men and Women. Traumatology 16(1): 16-30
  10. Coleman, PK, et al. (2011) Induced abortion and anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders: isolating the effects of abortion in the national comorbidity survey. J Psychiatr Res 45(8): 1133-4
  11. Mota, NP, et al (2010) Associations between abortion, mental disorders, and suicidal behavior in a nationally representative sample. Can J Psychiatry 55(4): 239-47
  12. Induced Abortion and Mental Health: A Systematic review of the evidence – full report and consultation table with responses. Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC). December 2011