Like miscarriages, elective abortions can be managed medically (with medications) or surgically. When done surgically, a procedure called a dilation and curettage (or “D&C”) is performed. Women who have experienced a miscarriage or undergone an abortion often wonder if they are at an increased risk with future pregnancies. Concerns about issues with infertility, recurrent miscarriage, or preterm deliveries are common.
The good news is that surgical abortion (whether done to treat a miscarriage or for elective reasons) is an exceedingly safe procedure when done legally, especially when performed early in the first trimester. Overall, complication risks are approximately 0.05 percent. Considering that half of women who have an abortion plan to have children in the future (and that by age 40, 30 percent of U.S. women have had an abortion), this is very reassuring data.
When it comes to future fertility, several research studies confirm that undergoing a surgical D&C is not associated with future infertility. In addition, having been able to conceive once is a reassuring sign that a woman is, in fact, able to get pregnant.
Furthermore, studies have also shown that having a D&C does not put women at increased risk for ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or birth defects.
Some sources have claimed that an increased risk of preterm delivery or low-birth weight infants exists following a D&C. However, these studies were not well done. For example, they did not account for all the factors that could lead to preterm delivery or low-birth weight infants, which led to inappropriate conclusions. More thorough studies, however, have not found any such associated risk.
Reviewed by Jennifer Lincoln, January 2019
- Miscarriages and elective abortions can be treated with medicine or surgery.
- Surgical abortion has a very low complication rate.
- If you have any concerns about your specific history, talk with your doctor or midwife.