There are a lot of myths floating around about pregnancy after abortion. The media bombards women with horror stories suggesting abortions are unsafe. And that getting one will ruin their fertility chances forever.
This can cause people to feel frozen with fear; making an already difficult decision feel next to impossible. But the thing is, those myths are just that. Myths. Scary stories the internet spreads like wildfire, that are simply not true.
Choosing to end a pregnancy is a deeply personal choice – and rarely one-size-fits-all. Some end a pregnancy to avoid the risk of congenital diseases. Others have an abortion to complete a miscarriage.
For some women, health complications arise that make pregnancy risky or even life-threatening. And others turn to abortion to avoid an unplanned pregnancy because the timing’s not right. Many who terminate a pregnancy want to have a baby at some point – just not now.
So, if you’ve had an abortion and worry whether you’ll be able to get pregnant again, it’s time to set the record straight.
Can you get pregnant after an abortion?
Yes. You can get pregnant after having an abortion. Research shows having a safe and legal abortion does not harm your fertility or increase your risk of miscarriage.
Most people who have an abortion can go on to have healthy pregnancies in the future. And abortions pose few health risks when done by a doctor in a sanitary environment.
Abortions are even considered safer than childbirth.
For example, one study found women are 14 times more likely to die from complications from childbirth than from abortion.
There is evidence that abortion may slightly increase the risk of preterm birth or low birth weight in future pregnancies. But keep in mind, the risks are rare.
How soon after an abortion can you get pregnant?
Quicker than you might think. But it all depends on when you ovulate.
Having an abortion resets your menstrual cycle. Most women ovulate on day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle.
This means you can get pregnant as soon as two weeks after having an abortion.
However, this is a rough estimate. Each woman’s menstrual cycle is unique. Almost all women will get their period back between 4–8 weeks after an abortion.
One study found that 34% of women ovulated within three weeks of an abortion. And by six weeks, 78% had ovulated.
Signs that you’ve ovulated include:
- Increased sex drive
- Heightened sensitivity to smell
- Changes in cervical mucus
- A rise in body temperature
- Ovulation pain
As it turns out, ovulation signs after an abortion are the same as if you didn’t have one. But keep in mind, few women experience all signs of ovulation. So going by symptoms isn’t always the best way to track your ovulation.
If you’re looking for an easy way to track your ovulation, consider trying a fertility monitor like Inito.
After an abortion, you need a plan
Since you can get pregnant after an abortion quite quickly, planning ahead is essential. Having an abortion can take a toll on you physically, mentally, and emotionally. So, give yourself permission to grieve and take the time you need to heal.
If you ended a pregnancy due to a medical reason, you might be anxious to try again right away.
Before making a decision, speak with your doctor. They can help you address any underlying health conditions before moving forward. That way, you’ll have the best chance of having a healthy pregnancy when the time is right.
And if you’re not ready to conceive right away, that’s okay. Be sure to have contraception on hand.
You can start birth control immediately after ending a pregnancy. Some even have an IUD inserted into their uterus right after their procedure. Talk with your healthcare provider to find the right birth control option for you.
How long does it take for pregnancy symptoms to go away?
Again, it all depends on the person.
How far along you are in your pregnancy before the abortion will also affect the timing. The farther along you are, the longer it will take for your hormones to level out.
During pregnancy, your placenta makes the human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone. HCG is the hormone that pregnancy tests check to see if you’re pregnant.
After a pregnancy loss, it can take anywhere between 16–60 days for your HCG levels to go down.
That’s why many women can test positive on pregnancy tests in the days and weeks after an abortion.
Most pregnancy symptoms like nausea and vomiting fade a few days after an abortion. But breast tenderness may linger for up to two weeks.
Try to be patient and give your body time to return to its baseline.
If you take a home pregnancy test and get a positive result three weeks after terminating a pregnancy, you may be pregnant.
Talk with your doctor. They can sort out whether there’s a new pregnancy or if leftover hormones are still brewing.
I’ve had more than one abortion – can I still get pregnant?
Yes. Having an abortion – or even two or three – does not harm your fertility. For nearly everyone, abortions do not affect their chances of becoming pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. Age, on the other hand, does.
However, having an abortion can increase your risk of preterm birth or low birth weight. The more abortions you’ve had, the greater the risk.
And just like all medical procedures, there is always some risk involved.
Risks and complications
Abortion complications are rare. Especially safe and legal ones done by a healthcare provider in a sanitary setting.
In one study of 54,911 abortions, 2.1 % of women had complications. Only 0.23% had serious complications.
Yet, the later in the pregnancy you have an abortion, the greater therisk of complications.
The risks also depend on whether you had a medical abortion or surgical abortion. Let’s clear up the differences between the two:
- Medical abortions are typically done in the first trimester. A medical abortion involves taking medications to promote cramping. This helps empty the contents of the uterus.
- A surgical abortion is a medical procedure that uses a suction tool, called a curet, to remove the contents of the uterus. They’re often done if someone is too far along in their pregnancy to have a medical abortion. Sometimes women get a surgical abortion after a failed medical abortion.
Although extremely rare, some surgical abortions can lead to scarring of the uterine wall. Scarring may lead to a condition called Asherman’s Syndrome. This can make it harder to become pregnant and increase the risk of future miscarriage.
Also, some abortions may lead to infection. This can happen after a medical abortion if some of the pregnancy tissue stays in the womb.
The infection can spread to your fallopian tubes or ovaries if not treated right away. This is known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Having PID can increase your risk of infertility and ectopic pregnancy.
If any of this scares you, just know that infections are rare. And there are things you can do to prevent them from happening.
How to prevent infection after an abortion
Women are usually given antibiotics before an abortion procedure to reduce the risk of infection. Taking your antibiotics as prescribed is crucial for avoiding infection.
After an abortion, take a break from intercourse. In fact, don’t insert anything into your vagina, including tampons. So you’ll need to use pads or period panties until you’ve healed.
It’s also wise to avoid douching, swimming, or taking baths for at least a week.
Vaginal bleeding, cramping, and discharge are normal and expected. However, if you have a fever, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, or severe bleeding, see your doctor right away.
How soon after an abortion can I have sex?
After an abortion, your body needs time to heal. That means not inserting anything into your vagina until the bleeding stops. So, you’ll need to take a break from intercourse.
Many doctors recommend waiting for one to two weeks after an abortion before having sex. Others say to wait until you’ve had one normal menstrual period. That’s because, after a pregnancy loss, your uterus will be more prone to infection until it’s fully healed.
While you and your partner may be eager to get back in the saddle, safety always comes first. You may want to consider having a pelvic exam to get the all-clear before resuming sex.
Pregnancy after abortion: summing it all up
- Terminating a pregnancy does not affect your ability to get pregnant. Abortions don’t increase your risk of future pregnancy complications either.
- Legal abortions done in a sanitary setting are safe and pose few health risks for women.
- Women can get pregnant as soon as two weeks after terminating a pregnancy.
- Most pregnancy symptoms fade a few days after an abortion. Although, breast tenderness may last for up to two weeks.
- Since you can get pregnant after a pregnancy loss rather quickly, it’s important to have a birth control plan in place.
- Having more than one abortion does not harm your fertility.
- Abortions may increase the risk of premature birth or low birth weight in future pregnancies.
- Abortion complications are rare. They can happen due to infection or uterine scarring from surgical abortions.
- You can avoid infection by taking antibiotics. Also, don’t insert anything into your vagina for 1–2 weeks.
- Give your body at least one to two weeks to heal before having sex.
Zuella Montemayor did her degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.