Abortion Risks & Complications

With over 150,000 abortions carried out each year in the UK alone it is a very common procedure and the amount of complications resulting from an abortion are small.  The risks to you during an abortion are very low and there is no known reason why having an uncomplicated abortion should stop you from becoming pregnant again in the future or result in you having any other medical conditions.  

However in rare circumstances when there are complications during your treatment there may be a small risk of haemorrhaging or damage to the cervix or womb.

The risks of haemorrhaging during treatment is about one in every 1,000 abortions.  Damage to the cervix and womb occurs in less than 10 in every 1,000 abortions and up to four in every 1,000 abortions respectively so the chances of it happening to you are very minimal.

Continuation of Pregnancy

It is rare, although possible, particularly when you have an early abortion, that the pregnancy is missed during treatment because it is so small.  This could result in the continuation of your pregnancy.  If this is the case then you will need to go for a second abortion treatment.  If you need to set your mind at rest that your treatment has worked, you should wait at least three weeks after your treatment before taking a pregnancy test to confirm it has been successful.  Any earlier than three weeks may give you a false reading. 

Incomplete Abortion

During any method of treatment there may also be a chance that small fragments of tissue are left or missed by the doctor and this can cause pain, bleeding and sometimes infection.  If this happens you must contact your clinic.  It may be that you need further treatment to complete the abortion.

Internal Damage

There is a tiny chance that your uterus or other internal organs may be damaged by treatment.  This is extremely rare and if it does happen to you, you will be transferred to a hospital.

Surgery & Anaesthetic Risks

If you are having a later abortion that requires a general anesthetic you will be faced with risks associated with having a surgical procedure.  In particular your risks of suffering from DVT or blood clots are raised.  It is for this reason that you are advised not to travel on a long haul flight or remain immobile for long periods after having an abortion.  You are advised not to travel long distances for more than four hours in a car, train or plane the same day as your treatment.

All these risks are raised considerably if you are overweight, have a heart condition or suffer from asthma.

Risks after an Abortion

While abortions are carried out in the UK every day and are relatively safe procedures, there are small risks to you during an abortion and after having an abortion.

  • Infection

The main risk to you after having an abortion is getting an infection.  The symptoms that would indicate you have an infection are a high temperature, severe pain and discomfort that normal painkiller won’t ease and unusual or smelly vaginal discharge.

It is very important that, if you experience any of these symptoms, you consult your GP or the clinic you went to immediately.  An untreated infection can lead to other medical complications such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which can cause an ectopic pregnancy and potentially infertility. 

If you do get an infection it can be treated quite easily with antibiotics and many clinics offer you antibiotics at the time of your treatments as a precautionary method.

Before leaving the clinic after your abortion, you will be talked through what to expect and given an information sheet which details what to look out for and when to seek further help.

You are advised not to use tampons and to wait at least two weeks after your abortion before having sex to help reduce the risk of getting an infection.

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Another complication associated mainly with later abortions, although they can occur at any time, are blood clots.  To help reduce the risks of getting a blood clot you should try not to travel a long distance on the same day as your treatment.  More than four hours of being immobile on a plane, train or in a car can increase your chances of developing a blood clot.  This risk is increased due to the fact that increases in hormone during pregnancy can also cause blood clots. 

  • Pregnancy

After having an abortion you will be at your most fertile so there is very high risk of becoming pregnant immediately.  You should consider what method of contraception you will use to prevent another pregnancy and arrange it prior to your abortion.  You can discuss what contraceptive methods are available to you at the clinic when you visit and they can explain how each of them works to help you decide what is the best method for you.

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