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I’ve had an abortion before. Will it affect future pregnancies?

This is a question that weighs heavily on the minds of expecting mums who have undergone abortion: What are the long-term effects of abortion on my current pregnancy?

There are many controversial elements surrounding the abortion issue but we will approach it strictly from a clinical point of view. Abortions are nothing new; it has been practised for centuries. Only in recent times, however, have abortions been supervised under proper sanitary conditions. Thanks to advances in medical technology, millions of women who have undergone abortion can now carry on to have successful pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies.

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Two types of abortion:

There are two types of abortions – medical and surgical. A medical abortion is usually an outpatient procedure where you will take oral medication. During a surgical abortion, the foetus will be removed from the uterus. If your termination was carried out under the proper sanitary conditions with the correct guidance and supervision, it should have little to no impact on any of your future pregnancies. This is not to say that there are no risks involved. As with any operation, you are at risk of post-operative infection, and this is where complications can set in.

What are the long-term effects of abortion on future pregnancies?

If you’ve had a significant number of abortions, chances are that scar tissue would have developed around the cervix and inside your uterus. Dilation of the cervix is necessary during the abortion procedure. After numerous terminations, you might suffer from what is called an “incompetent” cervix; one that dilates prematurely. This will influence your chances of carrying your pregnancy to full term.

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Some effects of abortion are short-term, such as bleeding, hemorrhaging and infection. However, if not treated properly, they can lead to serious complications. Cervical lacerations and uterine perforations are only some of the examples of the long-term effects of abortion can have on your body. This in turn can lead to preterm births and placenta previa – the improper implantation of the placenta.

One of the long-term effects of abortion is the emotional trauma on the mother. Memories of a previous abortion can possibly affect your mood and emotions while trying to conceive.

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Optimise your chances of conceiving after abortion:

  1. A post-abortion treatment plan is essential. Make sure to discuss with your gynae what to expect during your recovery phase. If you have experienced any complications after the termination, make sure to heed your doctor’s advice.
  2. Taking antibiotics and immune boosters before the abortion. This is an excellent way of reducing risk of infection. Luckily, most infections are easy to treat, assuming that you go for your follow-up.
  3. Correction of cervical incompetence. In the rare event that your cervix suffered some damage, it might be too weak to stay contracted during the full term of your pregnancy. This can be corrected with an operation that puts a small stitch around your cervix. Scar tissue might also be removed surgically.

Don’t lose hope in conceiving. You have conceived before, which would indicate that you are not infertile. If you have any concerns about the possible effects of abortion on your pregnancy, discuss your fears with your gynaecologist, who will be able to give you relevant advice.

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