Side Effects, Physical Health Consequences, and Mortality Associated with Abortion and Birth after an Unwanted Pregnancy

Womens Health Issues. 2016 Jan-Feb;26(1):55-9. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2015.10.001. Epub 2015 Nov 11.


Introduction: The safety of abortion in the United States has been documented extensively. In the context of unwanted pregnancy, however, there are few data comparing the health consequences of having an abortion versus carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.

Methods: We examine and compare the self-reported physical health consequences after birth and abortion among participants of the Turnaway Study, which recruited women seeking abortions at 30 clinics across the United States. We also investigate and report maternal mortality among all women enrolled in the study.

Results: In our study sample, women who gave birth reported potentially life-threatening complications, such as eclampsia and postpartum hemorrhage, whereas those having abortions did not. Women who gave birth reported the need to limit physical activity for a period of time three times longer than that reported by women who received abortions. Among all women enrolled in the Turnaway Study, one maternal death was identified-one woman who had been denied an abortion died from a condition that confers a higher risk of death among pregnant women.

Conclusion: These results reinforce the existing data on the safety of induced abortion when compared with childbirth, and highlight the risk of serious morbidity and mortality associated with childbirth after unwanted pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion Applicants / psychology
  • Abortion Applicants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Abortion, Induced / mortality*
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / mortality*
  • Adult
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Live Birth
  • Maternal Mortality*
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / mortality
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome / psychology*
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted* / psychology
  • Quality of Life*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Uterine Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Young Adult