Many women who have abortions have questions concerning what happens afterwards. Common concerns include a woman’s ability to get pregnant again, the health of future pregnancies, and birth control options. This article will discuss these common questions and provide information on pregnancy after an abortion.
Can getting an abortion affect my fertility?
When done safely, abortions do not typically affect your fertility, including your ability to get pregnant and have healthy future pregnancies (1). Additionally, it does not increase your chances of miscarriage or preterm delivery (2).
There is a very small chance that an abortion could affect fertility and future pregnancies if you get an infection that is left untreated after undergoing an abortion procedure. Therefore, if you experience signs of an infection, it is important to seek medical attention. Infection symptoms include stomach pain, fever, feeling sick, or unusual vaginal discharge (1). Additionally, unsafe abortions carry several health risks, including infertility. Thus, it is important to choose a safe abortion method.
Can abortion affect my health?
Abortion is very safe, and having an abortion does not usually affect your health and well-being. It does not increase your chances of developing breast cancer or depression.
However, you may experience some side effects after an abortion. These can include stomach pain and cramping, vaginal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fever, chills, and/or a headache. Pain symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Serious complications associated with abortion are very rare. However, as with any medical intervention, there are some risks. These include incomplete abortion, infection, or hemorrhage (excessive bleeding) (3).
How long after getting an abortion will my pregnancy tests be accurate?
Pregnancy tests measure human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a pregnancy hormone, in your urine. If you get a positive pregnancy test, hCG is present in your body.
Even though you are no longer pregnant after a complete abortion, you may still get a positive pregnancy test for a few weeks afterwards. This is because hCG may still be present in your body. After four weeks of taking the pills, the urine test becomes negative if the procedure has worked. There is a small chance of incomplete abortion, but this is usually accompanied by additional symptoms (5).
Can I get pregnant right after an abortion?
Ovulation, the process in which the ovary releases a mature egg, is necessary for pregnancy. When you are pregnant, you no longer ovulate. Therefore, after undergoing an abortion and terminating a pregnancy, ovulation and your menstrual cycle will resume.
A woman’s menstrual period will usually come back four to six weeks after an abortion. Ovulation can occur even before that. Therefore, you can still get pregnant even before your period comes back (3). Thus, if you want to prevent another unwanted pregnancy, consider starting a contraception.
How do I avoid getting pregnant again?
As mentioned, you are able to get pregnant fairly quickly after an abortion. If you do not want to get pregnant again, you should consider your birth control options. Birth control options include:
- birth control pills,
- an implant,
- an injection,
- an intrauterine device (IUD),
- a vaginal ring, and
- a patch.
It is very common for women to start contraception immediately after an abortion to prevent another pregnancy. In fact, one study found that 70 percent of women receiving an abortion wanted to leave with a contraceptive(4).
What contraceptive options do I have after having an abortion?
How you start your birth control immediately after an abortion will depend on the type of abortion you received and the type of contraception you prefer.
- Procedural abortion – If you’ve undergone a procedure to get an abortion, you can begin most birth control options that same day. These include the pill, IUD, patch, injection, vaginal ring, or implant.
- Medication abortion – If you took medication to undergo an abortion, you can start most birth control options the same day you take mifepristone, the first medication you take for a medication abortion. These options include the pill, injection, patch, and vaginal ring. Starting these right away does not influence the efficacy of mifepristone. After confirmation of a successful medical abortion, an IUD can be used (2,4).
You can start using condoms any time after having an abortion. Condoms prevent pregnancy while also protecting you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)(3).
There is no evidence for a recommended amount of time you must wait to have sex after using the abortion pills, but it is generally recommended that you wait until the heavier bleeding stops, and listen to your body and desire.
There are numerous things to consider throughout the abortion process, specifically afterwards. For example, many women have particular concerns surrounding their ability to get pregnant following an abortion and how to best protect themselves against another unwanted pregnancy. It is important to note that abortion does not usually affect fertility, and, thus, it is possible to get pregnant again following an abortion. Implementing an effective birth control method right away is the best way to avoid an unintended pregnancy. Thankfully, several contraception options are available, and most can be implemented immediately or soon after your abortion.
- “Can having an abortion affect my fertility?” NHS, 2018, www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/womens-health/can-having-an-abortion-affect-my-fertility/. Accessed March 2023.
- “Patient Education: Abortion (pregnancy termination) (Beyond the Basics).” Uptodate, www.uptodate.com/contents/abortion-pregnancy-termination-beyond-the-basics/print. Accessed January 2023.
- “Abortion Care.” ACOG, www.acog.org/en/womens-health/faqs/induced-abortion. Accessed January 2023.
- “Access to Postabortion Contraception.” www.acog.org/en/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2021/08/access-to-postabortion-contraception. Accessed January 2023.
- Lähteenmäki, P. “The disappearance of HCG and return of pituitary function after abortion.” Clinical Endocrinology, 9(2), 101–112, 1978, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2265.1978.tb02188.x. Accessed March 2023.