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Risks - Abortion

Abortions are generally very safe and most women will not experience any problems.

But like any medical treatment, there's a small risk that something could go wrong. The risk of complications increases the later in pregnancy an abortion is carried out.

Possible complications

The risks are different depending on whether you have a medical abortion or surgical abortion, and how many weeks pregnant you are.

Medical abortion

Before 14 weeks of pregnancy the main risks of medical abortion are:

  • needing another procedure to remove parts of the pregnancy that have stayed in the womb: this happens to about 70 out of 1,000 women
  • serious complications such as heavy bleeding, damage to the womb, or sepsis: this happens to about 1 out of 1,000 women

From 14 weeks of pregnancy, the main risks of medical abortion are:

  • needing another procedure to remove parts of the pregnancy that have stayed in the womb: about 13 out of 100 women
  • infection or injury to the womb: this happens to a small number of women

Surgical abortion

Before 14 weeks of pregnancy, the main risks of surgical abortion are:

  • needing another procedure to remove parts of the pregnancy that have stayed in the womb: this happens to about 35 out of 1,000 women
  • serious complications such as heavy bleeding, damage to the womb, or sepsis: this happens to about 1 out of 1,000 women

After 14 weeks of pregnancy, the main risks of surgical abortion are:

  • needing another procedure to remove parts of the pregnancy that have stayed in the womb: about 3 out of 100 women
  • very heavy bleeding: between about 1 and 10 out of 100 women
  • infection: this happens to a small number of women
  • injury to the womb or entrance to the womb (cervix): this happens to a small number of women

The clinic will provide you with the number of a 24-hour helpline to call if you have any problems after an abortion.

Effect on fertility, health and future pregnancies

Having an abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer or mental health issues.

Having an abortion will not affect your chances of becoming pregnant and having normal pregnancies in the future.

Many women are able to get pregnant immediately afterwards, so you should start using contraception right away if you do not want to get pregnant. The doctor or nurse at the hospital or clinic should talk with you about contraception at the time you have the abortion.

There's a very small risk to your fertility and future pregnancies if you develop a womb infection that is not treated quickly. The infection could spread to your fallopian tubes and ovaries – known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

PID can increase the risk of infertility or ectopic pregnancy, where an egg implants itself outside of the womb.

But most infections are treated before they reach this stage.

Talk to your doctor or an abortion advice service for more information if you're concerned about the possible risks of an abortion.

Page last reviewed: 24 April 2020
Next review due: 24 April 2023