Physical and Emotional Risks of Abortion

Physical Risks

Following an abortion, some women report feeling immediate relief. Others never experience any physical or psychological effects following an abortion. But many women do report having emotional complications arise in the weeks, months or even years following the procedure.1 If you choose to proceed with this medical option, we believe you have the right to know all of the facts regarding the potential physical or psychological effects of abortion.2

The potential physical effects of abortion vary from immediate complications to long-term issues. Generally, the further you are along in pregnancy, the greater the risk for complications. They also increase with general anesthesia. The list of possible complications include but is not limited to: 3

  • Very heavy bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Perforated uterus
  • Cervical injury
  • Scarring of the uterus
  • Incomplete abortion
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Undetected ectopic pregnancy4
  • Rh sensitization5
  • Future miscarriage6
  • Possible link to breast cancer7 (further epidemiological studies are warranted)

A study published in a major medical journal found that 31% of women surveyed who had undergone abortions had health complications.8

More resources about women’s health and abortion research:

Emotional Risks

Abortion, like most medical procedures, carries risks. It is extremely important for you to know what the potential effects on your health might be.8 The following is a sample of some published data:

  • 65% Experienced Multiple Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In this study comparing American and Russian women who had experienced abortion, 65% of American women studied experienced multiple symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which they attributed to their abortion.  Slightly over 14% reported all the symptoms necessary for a clinical diagnosis of abortion induced PTSD and 84% said they did not receive adequate counselling.9

Medical Science Monitor, 2004

  • Higher Rates of Depression, Substance Abuse, Suicidal Behavior After Abortion

In a New Zealand study, women who had abortions subsequently experienced higher rates of substance abuse, anxiety disorders and suicidal behaviour than women who had not had abortions, even after controlling for pre-existing conditions.  Approximately 42% of women with a history of abortion had experienced major depression in the last four years – nearly double the rate of women who had not been pregnant and 35% higher than those who carried to term.10

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2006

  • Significantly Higher Risk of Clinical Depression

Compared to women who carry their first unintended pregnancy to term, women who abort their first pregnancy are at significantly higher risk of clinical depression as measured an average of eight years after their first pregnancy. 11

British Medical Journal, 2002

  • 30% Higher Risk of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Researchers compared women who had no prior history of anxiety and who had experienced a first, unintended pregnancy.  Women who aborted were 30% more likely to subsequently report all the symptoms associated with a diagnosis for generalized anxiety disorder, compared to women who carried to term.12,

Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2005

Emotional complications can last for a very long time and some women don’t recognize them until years later.  A recent study on post –abortive women   showed 53% did not indicate a positive outcome.


Websites and counselling centres exist to help women deal with the emotional after-effects of abortion:

Medical and Surgical Abortion


  1. Coleman, P. K. et al. Induced abortion and anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2009; 43(8):770-6.
  4. Mifepristone – New safety information. Essential Medicines and Health Products Information Portal. 2002.
  5. Blood test for Rh Status and antibody screen. Baby Center.
  1. Yuelian, Sun et al. Induced abortion and risk of subsequent miscarriage. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2003; 32(3):449-454.
  2. Online Care.
  3. Used with permission from the Elliot Institute:
  4. Rue V. M. et. al. Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women. Medical Science Monitor. 2004; 10(10):SR 5-16.
  5. Coleman, P. K. et al. Induced abortion and anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2009; 43(8):770-6.
  6. Fergusson, D. M., et. al. Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2008; 193:444-451
  7. Reardon, D. C., Cougle, J. R. Depression and Unintended Pregnancy in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth: A Cohort Study. British Medical Journal. 2002; 324:151-2.