There is a lot of misinformation and misconception surrounding abortion. There are socially-based myths, such as that women use abortion in place of birth control or that criminalizing abortions will stop them from happening. Then there are also medically-based myths, like that abortions are painful for the fetus or psychologically damaging to the women who get them.
All of these falsehoods are equally as harmful to women’s healthcare and reproductive rights, but women who are considering abortion are often more concerned with the medical myths they’ve heard about the procedure. One of the most commonly asked questions that come from hearing these dangerous misconceptions is whether having an abortion can affect your future fertility.
The short answer is: abortion rarely causes infertility.
Medical and surgical abortions are both considered safe and effective medical procedures with a low risk of long-term side effects. Let’s take a quick look at what each type of abortion entails.
During a medical abortion, pregnancy is terminated by taking medications. You can get a medical abortion if you are within the first 9 weeks of your pregnancy. First, you will take mifepristone orally, usually in your doctor’s office. Then, you will be given misoprostol to insert into your vagina at home to complete the abortion.
If you’re getting a surgical abortion, you will receive one of two procedures, depending on how far along you are. For pregnancies up to 15 weeks, your doctor will perform a suction and aspiration to remove the embryo or fetus through your vagina. If you’re 15 weeks along or more, they will likely have to dilate you to fully remove the tissue, a procedure referred to as dilation and evacuation.
The process of medical or surgical abortion itself does NOT affect fertility. If fertility is affected, which happens rarely, it would be the result of a complication from the procedure (most often surgical abortion, as opposed to medical).
What are the risks of having an abortion?
Again, both types of abortion are considered safe and low-risk. But, like with any medical treatment or procedure, there is a potential for complications. Complications from abortion are rare, but the risk does increase the further along you are. Potential abortion complications include:
Some bleeding is expected after both medical and surgical abortions. Rarely, however, if too much blood is lost, you may require a transfusion.
If all of the tissue is not removed during your abortion, it is considered incomplete. This is more likely to happen with medical rather than surgical abortion. In the case of an incomplete abortion, your doctor will go in and remove the remaining tissue via vacuum aspiration or dilation and evacuation.
Infection is a potential complication of any surgery, surgical abortion included. If you get an infection after your abortion, it can spread throughout your pelvis and reproductive organs, causing symptoms like abdominal/pelvic pain and fever. In the unlikely event you get an infection after an abortion, it can be treated with antibiotics.
When a doctor is performing a surgical abortion, there is a small chance they could accidentally injure a nearby organ with their surgical tools. The risk of this is higher the further along you are in your pregnancy.
Asherman syndrome is a very rare complication of uterine surgery where scar tissue develops in the uterus or cervix.
Can any of these potential complications affect future fertility?
Of the potential abortion complications listed above, Asherman syndrome and infection are the only ones that can, again, rarely affect your fertility. Scarring from Asherman syndrome can make it harder to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term. If this is the case, your doctor can remove the scar tissue and insert a balloon that allows your uterus to heal. Once the balloon is removed and you’re healed, you should be able to conceive.
Additionally, waiting too long to treat an infection in your pelvis or reproductive organs can increase your risk of infertility or ectopic pregnancy. Rarely, however, do infections progress this far before they are detected and treated.
How soon after having an abortion can you get pregnant?
Physically, you can get pregnant after an abortion as soon as you can have sex again. Generally, your doctor will instruct you to wait at least 1-2 weeks to have sex after an abortion to allow everything time to heal. If you have any complications from your abortion, you may need to wait longer.
At South Avenue Women’s Services, we are dedicated to providing safe and effective medical and surgical abortions, as well as accurate information about abortion, to any woman who needs it.
We define our care by three words: confidential, compassionate, and caring. Our experienced medical professionals will answer your questions, give advice if you need it, and help you make an informed decision about your body and future. If you should decide an abortion is right for you, we’ll arrange the safe and skilled services you need.
Give us a call at 585-271-3850 today to schedule your private consultation!