Written by Jayne Leonard
A woman considering an abortion may wonder about any effects on future pregnancies. In most cases, an abortion does not affect fertility and has no impact on other pregnancies.
There are two methods: medical abortion and surgical abortion. The type that a woman chooses may depend on several factors, including how far along the pregnancy is and personal preference.
Research suggests that abortions do not affect fertility, and the risks associated with both types are relatively low.
Most of the time, women who have had abortions can go on to have healthy pregnancies.
It is important to note that a woman can get pregnant soon after having an abortion. Anyone who does not wish to become pregnant within weeks of an abortion should use contraception.
This article discusses fertility and pregnancy after an abortion. Find more specific information about fertility and pregnancy after a spontaneous abortion, or a miscarriage, here. Below, learn more about the safety and risks associated with pregnancy after an induced abortion.
Does an abortion affect future pregnancies?
Typically, the answer is no.
The risks from a medical abortion appears to be lower than that of a surgical abortion, though this may only be true because medical abortions are more common during early pregnancy. Overall, having an abortion early in a pregnancy reduces the risk of complications.
A medical abortion involves taking medication, and women tend to use this method during the first trimester. A combination of the medications mifepristone and prostaglandin, for example, has a success rate of up to 99%.
A medical abortion is relatively safe, and research indicates that it does not increase the risk of future pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth, low birth weight, pregnancy loss, or ectopic pregnancy, which involves the embryo attaching somewhere beyond the uterus.
A surgical abortion, also known as dilation and curettage — or D and C — involves removing the fetus with suction and a tool called a curette.
In rare cases, a surgical abortion can cause scarring of the uterine wall. Doctors call this Asherman’s syndrome. If scarring occurs, it may become more difficult to get pregnant again, and it may lead to pregnancy loss in the future.
How soon after an abortion can you get pregnant?
Ovulation can occur as soon as 2 weeks after an abortion. This means that a woman may become pregnant again before her next period. However, menstrual cycles vary in length, and women with shorter cycles may ovulate sooner.
Another factor that influences the timing of ovulation is the duration of the pregnancy before the abortion. If a pregnancy was farther along, a woman may not ovulate for several weeks after the abortion. This can occur when pregnancy hormones linger in the body.
To avoid pregnancy soon after an abortion, use contraception. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a woman can use any contraceptive method, including an intrauterine device, immediately after a pregnancy ends.
Anyone who wonders whether they have become pregnant soon after an abortion should take a pregnancy test. If the result is positive, see a doctor, who can determine whether there is a new pregnancy, or whether leftover pregnancy hormones are present.
Safety and risks
Abortions are safest when they happen as early as possible in pregnancy. Complications are more likely when pregnancy is farther along, regardless of the method of abortion.
Serious complications are unlikely to result from either type of abortion. One study — of 54,911 abortions among 50,273 women — found that complications occurred in 2.1% of cases, and serious complications in 0.23% of cases.
If complications arise, further treatment may be necessary to reduce the risk of problems in the future. A doctor can advise each individual about the risks.
After either type of abortion, many doctors recommend waiting until the bleeding ends before having sex again. Bleeding from an abortion can last for 2 weeks or more.
Other doctors advise waiting until at least one menstrual period has come and gone. Delaying sex will help reduce the risk of infection.
In some cases, it is necessary to delay having sex for longer, especially if the abortion took place later in the pregnancy or if there were complications.
How to get pregnant after an abortion
Women can become pregnant within 2 weeks of an abortion. For those who are ready to get pregnant again, there is generally no medical reason to delay trying to conceive — unless a doctor advises otherwise.
Women do not need to take extra steps to become pregnant after an abortion.
However, some doctors recommend waiting until the first menstrual period has ended. This will make it easier to estimate the delivery date of the next pregnancy.
Women who have had abortions for medical reasons may want a full medical assessment before trying to conceive again. A checkup can help determine whether they will experience similar issues with future pregnancies.
When are pregnancy tests accurate after an abortion?
Shortly after an abortion, a pregnancy test may give a false-positive result. This occurs because the body still contains significant levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
While hCG levels tend to fall quickly after an abortion, they can take several days or weeks to return to baseline.
Usually, a home pregnancy test shows an accurate negative result 3 weeks after the end of a pregnancy.
If a pregnancy test shows a positive result after 3 weeks, it may indicate a new pregnancy. To be certain, see a doctor, who can carry out a blood test or an ultrasound.
In most cases, an abortion does not affect fertility or future pregnancies. It is possible to ovulate and become pregnant within 2 weeks of an abortion.
In rare cases, surgical abortion can cause scarring of the uterine wall or damage to the cervix. These complications may make it more difficult to get pregnant again. They can also increase the risk of future pregnancy loss, preterm birth, or low birth weight.
However, both medical and surgical abortions are low-risk. The right method will depend on the stage of pregnancy and personal preference. A medical professional can help with this decision.
Anyone who has questions or concerns about pregnancy after an abortion should speak with a doctor.