A Frank Ob/Gyn's Message

An honest assessment of all things medical and ethical.

Is abortion safe? part 2

In my experience and research, the greatest fear women have after an induced abortion is that it may put them a greater risk for complications in a future pregnancy. Sadly, the medical evidence shows that this concern is indeed warranted. In fact, the most thoroughly documented and incontrovertible physical risk associated with induced abortion is preterm birth in a future pregnancy.

For example, a Canadian group recently undertook a comprehensive analysis of all the studies available throughout the world that addressed this issue. Their metanalysis compiling the data showed that one induced abortion increased the risk of future infants being low birth weight (LBW) by 35% and increased the risk of preterm delivery (PTD) by 36%. For women subjected to more than one induced abortion, their risk of future LBW babies and PTD was increased by 72% and 93% respectively [1]. To my surprise, even the United Sates Institute of Medicine (IOM) acknowledged induced abortion as a major contributing factor as recently as 2007 in it’s book entitled Immutable Medical Risk Factors Associated with Preterm Birth.

To put the meaning of this in perspective that, one should consider that preterm births and their subsequent complications are widely recognized as the single largest cause of infant mortality in the world. (Of course, such assumptions do not account the far greater and more direct contribution by induced abortions.)

In a related matter, various studies in the past have shown an association with induced abortion and subsequent miscarriage. In 2006, a United Kingdom study analysing potential risk factors for miscarriage found induced abortions to be among the factors independently associated with subsequent spontaneous abortions [2].

Several other medical risks have also come to light. For example, an increased risk of placenta previa after induced abortions has been well documented [3]. Previa is a complication wherein the placenta covers the cervix and requires cesarean delivery to avoid life-threatening hemorrhage during labor . Perhaps most interestingly, evidence is now emerging that induced abortions likely play a role in autoimmune diseases among women [4].

The takeaway message in summary: the physical harms caused by induced abortion do not end with the procedure’s primary target. Rather, the child’s mother and younger siblings frequently experience serious physical harms as well.

As the medical profession has grown in an appreciation of the interconnectedness between mental and physical health, we need to be careful not to compartmentalize mental illness as being unrelated and to other medical problems. Perhaps one of the greatest injustices against women today is that, despite over 30 studies in the past 7 years alone having demonstrated significant psychological harm to women, one of the chief rationalizations still used to excuse abortion is that it is particularly beneficial to her mental health. When the rate of suicide is 6 times higher among women having abortions, nothing could be further from the truth! [5]. Next week, we’ll finish our discussion with more detail on confirmed mental health harms attributable to induced abortion.

–Dr. Frank

 

  1. Shah PS, Zao J, Knowledge Synthesis Group of Determinants of preterm/LBW births. BJOG. 2009;116(11):1425.
  2. Risk Factors for First Trimester Miscarriage-Results From a UK-Population-Based Case-Control Study. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, December 4, 2006, pp. 1-17.
  3. Thorp, John M. Jr.; Hartmann, Katherine E.; Shadigian, Elizabeth. Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced Abortion: Review of the Evidence. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey: January 2003, Vol:58, pp 67-79.
  4. Miech, Ralph P. The Role of Fetal Microchimerism in Autoimmune Disease. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. June 2010; 3(2): 164-168.
  5. Mika Gissler, Elina Hemminki, Jouko Lonnqvist. Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987–94: register linkage study. BMJ 1996;313:1431

 

 

 

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