Preventing pelvic infection after abortion

Int J STD AIDS. 1995 Sep-Oct;6(5):305-12. doi: 10.1177/095646249500600501.


Pelvic infection is the commonest complication of legal abortion. The presence of lower genital tract infections increases the risk of complications, and women requesting abortion are at significant risk of harbouring sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Prophylactic antibiotic treatment can decrease the rate of post-abortal sepsis, but the optimum regime is unclear. In particular, patients with Chlamydia trachomatis infection, and bacterial vaginosis would appear to be at increased risk, and detection and treatment of these conditions can lower this risk. The opportunity to screen and treat for STD presents itself in this setting, allowing patients and their sexual contacts to benefit, with a decrease in the infected pool in the community.

PIP: Induced abortion is one of the most frequent surgical procedures in the UK. Even though it is considered safe, it sometimes has complications and long-term sequelae. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the most prevalent complication and can lead to chronic pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, infertility, and a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy. Chlamydia trachomatis is perhaps the leading etiologic agent for PID among women who have undergone induced abortion and who develop PID. Gonorrhea is another major etiologic agent for PID. Strategies used to try to reduce pelvic infection revolve around administration of antibiotic prophylaxis based on demographic features and on the presence of certain organisms in the genital tract that may increase their risk (e.g., C. trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae) and universal antibiotic prophylaxis for all women undergoing abortion. Most of the literature suggests that antibiotic prophylaxis does provide some protection against PID but does not clearly indicate who should be screened and for which pathogens and who should be treated and with which antibiotics. Demographic features useful for identifying who should receive antibiotic prophylaxis are: a history of PID, single status, nulliparity, and youth (especially reliable for chlamydial infection). Screening for bacterial vaginosis involves diagnosis based on 3 of 4 criteria: characteristic vaginal discharge, positive amine test, raised vaginal pH, and the presence of clue cells on microscopy of wet or stained preparations of vaginal discharge. Since C. trachomatis is the most important pathogen, drugs sensitive to it should be administered: tetracyclines and erythromycin. Screening women seeking abortion for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) provides an opportunity to educate them about STDs and treatment compliance and to contact their partners for investigation, treatment, and contact-tracing to reduce the STD-infected pool in the community.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / adverse effects*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / epidemiology
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / etiology
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / etiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*