Effects of multiple abortions

Originally Published: February 1, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 1, 2009
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Dear Alice,

What are the dangers in having multiple abortions? I have had two. I really don't want to have another one. I'm just seeing what are the risks. Like chances of getting pregnant again or what is the max. on abortions.

—Inquiring Mind

Dear Inquiring Mind,

Taking the initiative to find out about the possible risk(s) of multiple abortions makes sense. Fortunately, women who have had an abortion in a safe, sterile environment by a trained provider usually don't have future fertility or pre-natal complications. Also, there is no medically or legally mandated maximum number of abortions that a woman can have; this is a decision that is up to a woman and her health care provider.

Having one or more abortions carries little to no risk of future pregnancy complications such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or birth defects for future pregnancies. Some research suggests that women who have multiple surgical abortions may be slightly more likely to have complications such as low-birth weight babies or pre-term birth. This is not to say, however, that abortion causes adverse pregnancy outcomes. Instead, some women who have abortions may also have other life events or risk factors that predisposed them to having low-birth weight babies and/or pre-term births (as opposed to the abortion leading to these complications).

You mention that you want to avoid having another abortion; many women share this feeling and use birth control to avoid becoming pregnant. There are several contraception options, including birth control pills, the ring, the patch, the shot (Depo Provera), Implanon, IUDs, and/or condoms. Keep in mind that only condoms also reduce the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you or your partner(s) are students at Columbia, you can talk with a health care provider about what forms of contraception might be right the right option. Log on to Open Communicator or call x4-2284 to make an appointment. If you are not at Columbia, your health care provider or local Planned Parenthood health center can help.

Finally, if you do have unprotected sex, you still have a non-abortion birth control option: emergency contraception (EC). EC can be taken up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected intercourse to help prevent a pregnancy. EC is available over-the-counter at U.S. pharmacies to women and men age 17 and over (women under 17 must get a prescription from their health care provider). The Emergency Contraception Hotline at 1.888.NOT.2.LATE provides information in English and in Spanish about EC (the web site also provides information in French), as well as on where to find EC nearby.

Some women find that having an abortion is the right choice in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, even if they have already had one or more abortions. Since you expressed an interest in preventing another pregnancy, you may want to consider what contraception would fit best into your life. In the end, the choice is yours. Good luck,

Alice