When considering any medical procedure, it's important to sit down and do some research on the potential side effects and risks you might experience. The same can be said about abortion.
Whether you're considering abortion as an option for your pregnancy, researching for a friend, or have a confirmed appointment for an abortion, becoming knowledgeable about the procedure is an important step to take and will help you make an informed decision.
First off, what is abortion?
You likely know that abortion is the process of ending a pregnancy, but do you know exactly what happens during an abortion? We're here to help you understand the procedure as well as all of your pregnancy options.
First, there are two types of abortion — medical abortions (often referred to as "the abortion pill") and surgical abortions.
Medical abortions utilize two drugs in the form of pills to end a pregnancy within the first 70 days of gestation. The first drug, Mifepristone, stops the production of progesterone, which is a naturally produced hormone that the body makes to help the pregnancy grow. This pill is typically taken at a doctor's office or clinic. The second step utilizes the drug Misoprostol, which forces contractions and pushes the pregnancy from the uterus. While the process is started at a doctor's office, it is completed at home.
Surgical abortions are another form of abortion that involves surgical removal of the fetus from the uterus. There are several types of surgical abortions each varying based on the stage of the pregnancy.
Regardless of the stage of the pregnancy, a surgical abortion will entail some form of dilation of the cervix to give the abortion provider access to the pregnancy and provide a way for the pregnancy to pass from the uterus. The fetus will either be removed through suction or scraping.
What are the side effects of abortion?
Most abortions will be accompanied by minor side effects like abdominal pain, cramping, and bleeding. With a medical abortion, common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Along with these minor side-effects, more serious complications are possible. Here are the top five side effects you should know about:
Mental Health Issues
Even if a woman does not experience any physical side effects from abortion, it is possible to encounter lasting mental health issues in the wake of the procedure. Many women have reported experiencing new mental health issues that are "caused, triggered, aggravated, or complicated by their abortion experience." 1 Mental health issues are not to be ignored and can have long-term implications.
Incomplete abortions occur when the abortion was not successful in expelling all of the pregnancy tissue from the uterus. This is one of the more serious risks of abortion. When left untreated, it can result in infection or hemorrhaging. If a woman thinks she may be experiencing an incomplete abortion, it is very important a doctor be contacted immediately.
According to The Mayo Clinic, abortion can cause infertility. This is especially true for women who are using an IUD for birth control, have high blood pressure or diabetes, take blood thinners, smoke tobacco, or already have heart, liver, kidney, or lung diseases.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
It's important to get tested for STDs before scheduling an appointment for an abortion. Women who are infected with chlamydia at the time of their abortion procedures have an increased risk of 23% for developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). 2 Once developed, PID can cause fertility issues, chronic pain, and increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Difficulty Bonding in Relationships
Many women experience this seemingly "hidden" side effect — the difficulty bonding in future relationships. This includes both romantic partnerships and future child-rearing. One study suggests that post-abortive couples have a 45 to 75 percent increase in the likelihood of breakup or divorce. Similarly, women who go on to have children after their abortion report difficulties bonding with their babies. 3
I'm pregnant! What do I do?
Are you experiencing an unplanned pregnancy? You're not alone. In fact, millions of women experience unintended pregnancies each year. While it's normal to feel worried or scared, remember that you have options.
Here at Open Arms, we're passionate about guiding women through unplanned pregnancies by providing free pregnancy confirmation, resources, and options counseling.
1. Reardon DC. The abortion and mental health controversy: A comprehensive literature review of common ground agreements, disagreements, actionable recommendations, and research opportunities. SAGE open medicine. 2018;6: 1–38. 10.1177/2050312118807624 . [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
2. Westergaard L, Phillipsen T, Scheibel J (1982). "Significance of cervical Chlamydia trachomatis infection in postabortal pelvic inflammatory disease." Obstetrics and Gynecology, 68(5): 668-90; Ovigstad E, et al. (1983). "Pelvic inflammatory disease associated with Chlamydia trachomatis infection after therapeutic abortion." Br J Vener Dis, 59: 189-92; Heisterberg L, et al. (1987). "The role of vaginal secretory immunoglobulin a, gardnerella vaginalis, anaerobes, and Chlamydia trachomatis in post abortal pelvic inflammatory disease." Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 66(2): 99-102.
3. Women's Health After Abortion: The Medical and Psychological Evidence Paperback – April 1, 2002. Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy (Author), Ian Gentles (Author)