Pregnancy after abortion

Many women who decide to have an abortion still want to have a baby in the future. But how does having an abortion affect a future pregnancy?

Having an abortion doesn’t affect your fertility in most cases. You can actually get pregnant just a few weeks after having an abortion, even if you haven’t had a period yet. This will depend on how far along you were in your pregnancy before the abortion happened.

If you’re trying to get pregnant soon after an abortion or wanting to avoid getting pregnant again, here’s more information about what to expect in the weeks and months after the procedure.

How soon after abortion can you get pregnant?

An abortion will restart your menstrual cycle. Ovulation, when an egg is released from the ovary, typically happens around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle. This means you’ll likely ovulate just a couple weeks after an abortion.

In other words, it’s physically possible to get pregnant again if you have unprotected sex just a couple weeks after the procedure, even if you haven’t had a period yet.

However, not everyone has a 28-day cycle, so the exact timing can vary. Some women have naturally shorter menstrual cycles. This means they may begin ovulating just eight days after the procedure and can get pregnant even sooner.

How much time elapses before you ovulate also depends on how far along your pregnancy was before the abortion. Pregnancy hormones can linger in your body for a few weeks after the procedure. This will delay ovulation and menstruation.

Symptoms of pregnancy following an abortion will be similar to symptoms of any pregnancy. They include:

  • tender breasts
  • sensitivity to smells or tastes
  • nausea or vomiting
  • fatigue
  • missed period

If you haven’t had a period within six weeks of the abortion, take a home pregnancy test. If results are positive, call your doctor. They can do a blood test to determine whether you’re pregnant or still have leftover pregnancy hormones from the aborted pregnancy.

How long should you wait after an abortion to get pregnant?

After an abortion, doctors generally recommend waiting to have sex for at least one to two weeks to help reduce the risk of infection.

The decision to get pregnant again after an abortion is ultimately a decision you should make with your doctor. In the past, doctors recommended that women should wait at least three months before trying to get pregnant again. This is no longer the case.

If you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to get pregnant again, there’s no need to wait. However, if you had any complications following your abortion or aren’t emotionally ready, it may be wise to wait until you’re feeling better again.

If you have any complications from the abortion, ask your doctor when it’s safe again to have sex. Serious complications are uncommon after both medical and surgical abortions, but some issues can occur.

Complications are more common with surgical abortions. Possible complications include:

  • infections
  • cervical tears or lacerations
  • uterine perforation
  • bleeding
  • retained tissue
  • allergic reactions to medications used during the procedure

If you had to have an abortion for medical reasons, have a thorough medical checkup to make sure your next pregnancy won’t have the same issues.

Do abortions increase risk for future pregnancy complications?

Abortion isn’t believed to cause issues with fertility or complications in later pregnancies. However, some research suggests that abortion procedures can increase your risk of having a preterm birth or a child with a low birth weight. Studies have been conflicting on these risks, however.

One study even found that women who underwent a surgical abortion during the first trimester had a higher risk of miscarriage in their next pregnancy. But it’s important to understand these risks are still considered uncommon. No causal link has yet been established.

The risk may depend on the type of abortion performed. Here’s more on the main two types:

Medical abortion

A medical abortion is when a pill is taken in early pregnancy to abort the fetus. At the moment, there’s no evidence to show that medical abortions increase a woman’s risk of having problems with future pregnancies.

One study found that a medical abortion carried no increased risk of:

Surgical abortion

A surgical abortion is when the fetus is removed using suction and a sharp, spoon-shaped tool called a curet. This type of abortion is also called dilation and curettage (D and C).

In rare cases, a surgical abortion can cause scarring to the uterine wall (Asherman syndrome). You may be at increased risk for uterine wall scarring if you’ve have had multiple surgical abortions. Scarring might make it more difficult to get pregnant in the future. It may also increase the chances of miscarriage and stillbirth.

It’s extremely important that an abortion is performed by a licensed medical provider in a safe and sterile environment.

Any abortion procedure not carried out by a doctor is considered unsafe and can lead to immediate complications as well as later problems with fertility and overall health.

How long after an abortion will pregnancy tests be accurate?

Pregnancy tests look for a high level of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Pregnancy hormones decline rapidly after an abortion but don’t completely diminish to normal levels right away.

It can take anywhere from 16 days up to 2 months for hCG levels in the body to fall below the levels detected by a pregnancy test. If you take a pregnancy test within that time frame, you’re likely to test positive whether you’re still pregnant or not.

If you think you’re pregnant again soon after an abortion, see a healthcare provider. They can provide a blood-based pregnancy test instead of using an over-the-counter (OTC) pregnancy test. They can also perform an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy has been terminated.

The takeaway

It’s physically possible to get pregnant again during the next ovulation cycle after having an abortion.

If you’re trying to avoid becoming pregnant again, begin using a birth control method immediately after the abortion. A healthcare provider can help you choose the one that’s best for you.

In the majority of cases, having an abortion won’t affect your ability to get pregnant again in the future. Nor will it affect your ability to have a healthy pregnancy.

In rare instances, a surgical abortion can cause scarring of the uterine wall. This may make it more difficult to get pregnant again.