What to Expect with Medication and Surgical Abortion

This section outlines basic information about what a patient will experience when seeking abortion at different gestational ages and with different methods. 

Common Questions

There are some common questions about abortion that doctors hear. Crisis pregnancy centers and other anti-abortion organizations sometimes provide misleading or inaccurate information to women considering abortion. 

Is abortion a dangerous procedure?

Abortion is one of the safest and most common medical procedures performed in the United States. Statistics show that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime.1,2 In general, abortion is very safe, with less than a 2% risk of complications and less than a 0.05% risk of complications requiring hospital care in the first trimester.1 Complication rates are somewhat higher for surgical abortions provided between 13 and 24 weeks, but they are still very rare.

Does abortion increase your risk of breast cancer?

Exhaustive research has concluded that individuals who have had an abortion do not have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who have not had an abortion.3,4 There is also no indication that abortion is a risk factor for other cancers.

Does abortion cause sterility or infertility?

Abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.3

Some studies suggest that second-trimester procedures using dilation and evacuation may pose some increased risk of complications in future pregnancies, such as premature delivery and low birthweight.3 However, advances in the way second trimester procedures are performed appear to have reduced complications. In addition, several well-designed studies have found no connection to pregnancy-related outcomes: For example, a large prospective study comparing individuals who had had an abortion with a carefully matched control group found no link between abortion history and poor pregnancy outcomes.3,5

Can abortion lead to mental health problems or “abortion trauma syndrome"?

People can experience a number of emotions and feelings in connection with an abortion, ranging from anxiety to sadness to relief. However, repeated studies have concluded that abortion does not increase the likelihood of mental health disorders.6,7 There is also no evidence to support the existence of “abortion trauma syndrome.”8 Studies show that the proportion of individuals who experience regret is small, even among adolescents.9 Some people do experience feelings of sadness or loss and may welcome support and care from their family, friends and community.10