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Abortion information

Do abortions cause infertility?

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About abortion-caused infertility:

Pro-life and pro-choice advocates have opposing beliefs about whether abortions can lead to infertility. Most pro-life groups believe that it does; most pro-choice groups believe that it does not.

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Some estimates of the rates of infertility by pro-life groups:

bulletOhio Right to Life quotes Dr. Bohumil Stipal, Czechoslovakia's Deputy Minister of Health, who stated: "Roughly 25% of the women who interrupt their first pregnancy have remained permanently childless." 1 The 25% figure would presumably include:
bulletwomen who had an abortion and simply have not tried to become pregnant since.
bulletwomen who had decided to not have any children for the foreseeable future, found themselves pregnant, had an abortion and have remained childless by choice ever since.
bulletwomen who were fertile, had an abortion and are now infertile because of complications arising from the abortion.

There is, of course, no way to estimate how many instances of "childlessness" are due to each of the three causes. Thus, we cannot even guess how many women are infertile as a result of an abortion. We conclude that Dr. Stipal's statement is meaningless with regard to abortions and infertility.

bulletOhio Right to Life quotes an unidentified article in the British Journal of OB/GYN for 1976-AUG which stated that the risk of secondary infertility among women with at least one induced abortion is 3-4 times greater than that among non-aborted women. 1 That figure might have been accurate in the mid 1970's, but is probably no longer valid today. At a time when legal abortions were difficult or impossible to obtain, the only alternative was the back-alley butchers. Extremely high rates of infection resulted, which often caused permanent infertility.

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Some estimates of the rates of infertility by pro-choice groups:

bullet"Ask Beth," a service of Planned Parenthood stated: "Abortions are very safe procedures and very rarely are the cause of infertility." 3

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A medical estimate of the rates of infertility:

bulletNetDoctor is a British medical web site which has a team of doctors offering medical information to the general public. Dr. Hilary Jones stated:

"...abortion will not affect her future fertility. There remains a false perception that a therapeutic abortion, as it is called, can be harmful to health, but this is in fact is not the case. In times gone by before therapeutic abortions were legal, operations were performed outside the law by backstreet abortionists using unsterilised equipment and dangerous techniques."

"Complications were common after such procedures ranging from pelvic infection to infertility and even death on many occasions. However this is no longer the case. Remember too that the anti-abortionists sometimes used to deliberately frighten women by saying that they might never be able to have a baby again in order to discourage them from having an abortion. These people may have been genuine in their ethical convictions, but they were less than truthful or properly researched about the medical facts."

"Now the operation is carried out under general anaesthesia in sterile hospital environments by sympathetic staff in controlled and regulated fashion. The procedure does not damage the cervix or the rest of the womb, and provided no post-operative infection takes place, as it very seldom does, there is no reason why your girlfriend's fertility should be affected." 4

bulletBabyCenter offers a similar Q&A service. Robert Jansen, a clinical professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Sydney in Australia, was asjed: "Does a past abortion (or more than one) affect my chances of getting pregnant?" He replied:

"Probably not. However, in rare cases, multiple dilations and curettages (the cleaning out of the uterus, also known as a D&C) can cause some scarring at the top of the cervix or inside the uterus. A procedure called hysteroscopy (when a small camera is placed through your cervix into your uterine cavity) can be used to check for this problem and can usually repair the scar tissue at the same time."

"But even if that's not the case for you, you should know that any procedure that dilates the cervix (a necessary step during most abortions) can weaken it. So if you've had more than one abortion and you get pregnant again later on, you may find that you have what's known as an incompetent cervix a cervix that starts dilating prematurely. This can sometimes be treated with a stitch to keep the cervix closed, called a cerclage." 5

bulletA scientific review article in the International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal Studies concluded that legal induced abortions have almost no chance of infertility when done in the first or second trimester. 6

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Our assessment:

If there were a significant infertility problem, we would assume that some medical sources would mention it. Only pro-life organizations and their web sites appear to cite it as a significant concern. We assume that the possibility of infertility frequently arising from an abortion, like the breast cancer and post abortion syndrome scares, is not a major public health concern. Of course, it can be a very serious problem to a woman who finds herself infertile.

From the available data, it appears that abortion itself rarely causes infertility. It is the infection that might develop after the abortion that most often prevents further pregnancies. There are probably many millions of women alive today in North America who became infertile as a result of an abortion. Most of them are the victims of back-alley abortionists in the days before Roe v. Wade made early abortions legal. It would appear that the chances of becoming infertile as a result of a hospital or clinic abortion is very slight.

Teens who live in states where parental consent is needed for an abortion have three options:

  1. Tell their parents about the pregnancy and obtain permission from them to have an abortion
  2. Go to court and ask a judge to authorize an abortion
  3. Keep the pregnancy secret and seek out an illegal abortion

Unfortunately, many young women are taking the third option, and are placing their future fertility (and sometimes their life) at risk.

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Possible methods by which abortions can cause infertility:

A Registered Nurse, Camilla Cracchiolo describes the main abortion complications that could cause infertility:

bullet90% of abortions are done in the first trimester. However, a late abortion frequently requires a material called laminaria to dilate the cervix. This makes the passage large enough to allow a suction tube to be inserted. The laminaria could weaken the cervix and conceivably cause infertility.
bulletIf the physician scrapes too hard, the lower lining of the uterus can be removed. This is extremely rare.
bulletAn untreated infection can scar the uterus and cause later fertility problems. The infection rate for first trimester abortions is less than 1%. Most women monitor their body temperature after an abortion to detect if an infection has occurred. Early detection should prevent any problems.
bulletA woman who already have gonorrhea or chlamydia are very likely to suffer pelvic inflammatory disease which causes infertility. They are particularly susceptible to damage from PID after an abortion. This can be avoided by obtaining a STD test before the abortion.
bulletThe suction tube can perforate both the uterus and a large blood vessel or intestine. If the latter happens, then surgery may be required. The surgery can cause infertility. Perforation of the uterus is also quite rare. 2

It would seem that if the physician is competent, and the woman monitors her body temperature after the procedure, that the chances of an abortion causing later infertility is quite remote.

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Disclaimer:

This, and similar medical information on our web site, is intended as a general educational aid to the public. If the topics covered are of direct concern to you, we recommend that you consult a qualified healthcare professional who can review your unique situation before reaching a decision.

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References:

  1. Ohio Right to Life, "Abortion: Complications," at: http://www.ohiolife.org/
  2. Camilla Cracchiolo, "Abortion and Infertility" at:  http://www.med.auth.gr/
  3. "Ask Beth: Abortion and fertility," Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 2003-SEP-25, at: http://www.ppsp.org/
  4. Hilary Jones, "Fertility after abortion," NetDoctor, 2000-AUG-12, at: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/
  5. "Does a past abortion affect my chances of getting pregnant?" BabyCenter, undated, at: http://www.babycenter.com/
  6. Lurie, et al. "Induced midtrimester abortions and future fertility where are you today?" International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal Studies. (1995) 40(6):311-5

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Site navigation:

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Medical problems > here

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Copyright 1998 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-JAN-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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