This reader wonders if she can have a baby after having an abortion…
Dear Dr. Kate,
When I was 15, I had an abortion. I am now 23 and I am considering having a baby. I am worried, however—I have heard that when you have an abortion it risks future pregnancies. I have always wanted a baby, and I couldn’t imagine life without having my own children…but when I was so young I was in no way ready at that point to have one. My questions are: Is there a chance that I won’t be able to get pregnant in the future because of my abortion? And how can I tell if I will be able to have a child? I mean, is there a way for me to assure myself that I will be able to reproduce?
You’re not alone, in either having had an abortion or being worried about future pregnancies. Abortion is incredibly common in the U.S.—almost 1 in 3 women will have one. But let me reassure you: having an uncomplicated abortion does not impact your fertility. You will be able to get pregnant, carry a pregnancy, and have a baby, in the same way as if you had never been pregnant or had an abortion.
A person’s fertility is affected by many things. An untreated STI can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and scarring of your fallopian tubes. And it gets harder to get pregnant as you get older, especially over the age of 35. But the abortion itself doesn’t affect your chances.
Doctors don’t do routine testing for “fertility.” There are so many factors that contribute to getting pregnant. And insurance doesn’t cover testing unless you have a preliminary diagnosis of infertility. I counsel my patients that if they haven’t gotten pregnant after a year of trying, we can start testing. And if they’re over age 35, I tell them to give it just 6 months before seeking help. Sadly, you can’t assure yourself that you’ll be able to get pregnant in the future. That’s the same position that all people are in, though, so you’re just like everyone else.
What do I mean by an “uncomplicated” abortion? I mean a procedure that didn’t lead to a massive infection that required hospitalization and/or additional surgery afterwards.
Going online for information about abortion is quite tricky: many sites are set up to look educational, but are full of misinformation. Planned Parenthood is an excellent resource for information. So keep yourself as healthy as you can and use birth control until you’re ready to become a parent. That day will come, and your body will be ready.