Like every medical procedure, abortion carries risks. The risks vary by type of abortion. When considering abortion as an option for the outcome of your pregnancy, it is a good idea to learn about the procedures used and the risks involved. Staying informed helps you prioritize your health and safety.
A medical abortion, sometimes called the abortion pill, uses two drugs to terminate a viable pregnancy. The first drug, mifepristone, ends the pregnancy by blocking progesterone (a hormone made in the body). Without progesterone, the pregnancy ends. Misoprostol, the second drug, then causes the uterus to begin squeezing to force the pregnancy out of the body through the vagina.
Medical abortions are only FDA-approved for pregnancies under 10 weeks.
The risks of medical abortion include the following:
- Incomplete abortion, which may need to be followed by surgical abortion
- An ongoing pregnancy if the procedure doesn’t work
- Heavy and prolonged bleeding
- Digestive system discomfort
During a surgical abortion, a provider uses tools to open the cervix (the opening of the uterus). Surgical instruments are then used to remove the pregnancy from the uterus.
The risks of a surgical abortion include the following:
- Uterine perforation (a hole poked through the uterus)
- Excessive bleeding
- Infection of the uterus or fallopian tubes
- Scarring of the inside of the uterus
- Reaction to the medicines or anesthesia, such as problems breathing
- Not removing all the tissue (requires another procedure)
Women are responsible for monitoring themselves for complications after an abortion since they will recover at home. A woman should be made aware of the signs and symptoms of complications before an abortion. Signs and symptoms that require medical attention include:
- Heavy Bleeding (soaking through more than two pads in an hour for two hours)
- Severe back or abdominal pain
- Fever lasting longer than 24 hours
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
Mental Health Risks
When weighing the risks of abortion, mental health risks should also be included. Women who experience an abortion are more likely to struggle with their mental health. Risks to mental health after an abortion include:
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Substance use disorder