Immediate Risks

It is important to understand the difference between an effect and a complication. An effect is an expected reaction and at least partially inevitable, whereas a complication not expected. Common effects of abortion include abdominal pain and cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In most abortions, no serious complications occur. However, complications may happen in as many as 1 out of every 100 early abortions and in about 1 out of every 50 later abortions.

Complications may include:

Heavy Bleeding – Some bleeding after abortion is normal. There is, however, a risk of hemorrhage, especially if the uterine artery is torn. When this happens, a blood transfusion may be required.

Infection – Bacteria may get into the uterus from an incomplete abortion resulting in infection. A serious infection may lead to persistent fever over several days and extended hospitalization.

Incomplete Abortion – Some fetal parts may not be removed by the abortion. Bleeding and infection may occur. RU486 may fail in up to 1 out of every 20 cases.

Allergic Reaction to Drugs – An allergic reaction to anesthesia used during abortion surgery may result in convulsions, heart attack and, in extreme cases, death.

Tearing of the Cervix – The cervix may be cut or torn by abortion instruments.

Scarring of the Uterine Lining – Suction tubing, curettes, and other abortion instruments may cause permanent scarring of the uterine lining.

Perforation of the Uterus – The uterus may be punctured or torn by abortion instruments. The risk of this complication increases with the length of the pregnancy. If this occurs, major surgery, including a hysterectomy, may be required.

Damage to Internal Organs – When the uterus is punctured or torn, there is also a risk that damage will occur to nearby organs such as the bowel and bladder.

Death – In extreme cases, other physical complications from abortion including excessive bleeding, infection, organ damage from a perforated uterus, and adverse reactions to anesthesia may lead to death. This complication is rare and occurs, on average, in less than 20 cases per year.