Abortion refers to voluntary termination of pregnancy. When it is carried out under proper medical supervision within the safe time period, it is one of the safest procedures. However, there is always a risk of infection. This risk is intensified by certain factors. In some cases infections may develop after abortion. One of the most serious complications is pelvic inflammatory disease. So, it is necessary to keep a lookout for the signs of such infections and visit a doctor as soon as they appear.
A pregnancy may be unwanted for a variety of reasons. Medical science now provides a number of perfectly safe methods to terminate such unwanted pregnancies. Medication and surgery are both used to induce abortion. Most of the countries have now legalized the process. As a result, the rate of abortion has also increased. Today, about 50 million abortions are performed every year. The worldwide rate of abortion is 28 per 1000 women. With proper equipments and qualified medical personnel, abortion is one of the safest procedures.
Things to know about abortions
Before proceeding to the infections which may develop, how to recognize them and avoid them, here are some important things to know about abortion:
- Abortion should always be conducted by a doctor. Using non medical or traditional methods can increase the associated risks many times.
- You can conceive and deliver a child in the normal way after having an abortion. In fact, the risk of getting pregnant immediately after an abortion is quite high.
- Some bleeding is normal after an abortion. This can continue for a few days up to a fortnight.
- Normal period resumes after about six weeks.
- Period like pain and cramping is also normal during the post abortion bleeding.
Infections which may develop after an abortion
In 95% of the cases, no complications develop after an abortion. According to the reports of WHO, 68000 women die every year from complications of unsafe abortions while 7 deaths were reported in 2005 in USA from legal abortions.
Here are a few risk factors which increase the chances of infection:
- The abortion was performed by unqualified persons.
- It was performed in a traditional way and not in a hospital setting.
- You were in an advanced stage of pregnancy, but still you went ahead with the procedure.
- You have used certain devices internally after the abortion like douche or tampon.
- You have a preexisting condition of sexual disease like gonorrhea, Chlamydia etc.
- Some sort of infection affects your womb.
In the presence of one or more of the above conditions, you may get an infection after an abortion. Some of the complications that develop after an abortion are as follows:
- Hemorrhage or excessive bleeding may occur in one out of 1000 abortions. Excessive blood loss can cause your body to go into septic shock with dire consequences.
- Germs may enter the uterus from your vagina or the instruments used, causing pelvic inflammatory infection. If it grows complicated, it may lead to pain for the rest of the life. In serious cases, it may lead to sterility.
- Incomplete abortion is noted in 36% of cases if induced labor process is used, though the incidence is less than 1% in D&E. This is a condition which may occur if part of the fetal material is left in the womb. It can become septic, develop life threatening complications and repeat surgical procedures become necessary.
- Similar to the above, blood clots may be left in the uterus which causes cramping, pain and bleeding. Additional suction curettage is necessary to remove them.
- One of the rare risks of abortion is injury to the womb and the cervix. The wall of the uterus may be perforated by a surgical instrument and it becomes necessary to remove it. Similarly, the cervix may be torn when it is stretched by the instrument. Bleeding is the common symptom and it requires emergency medical procedure to deal with it.
- In about 1 in every 5000 abortions, anesthesia related complications are seen.
- In a few cases, especially if the abortion is administered inexpertly, complications and infections may lead to sterility or may cause a hysterectomy to be performed.
Symptoms of an infection after abortion
The symptoms that can warn you that you are developing a post abortion infection are as follows:
- Some bleeding is normal after an abortion. It can continue for four to fourteen days. The amount will be the same as normal menstruation or less than this. But, if you find that you are bleeding profusely and it is showing no sign of abating, you may have developed a tear or an infection and should consult a doctor immediately.
- It is necessary to take your temperature twice daily at least for seven days after an abortion. A slight fever on the day of the abortion is normal. But if the temperature is higher than 102°F or it persists for a few days, it indicates that some infection has occurred.
- Cramping and period like pains are also quite normal after an abortion. However, if the cramping is too painful, this is another symptom.
- In case of medically induced abortions, nausea and chills are common. However, persistent symptoms can signify a deeper complication.
Though the above list may sound terrifying, the fact is that most legal abortions which are carried out in a proper medical setting, especially in the first trimester, carry little risk. In addition to physical infections, abortion also has a psychological aspect. Left untreated, this may develop into depression and women have even known to have become suicidal. It is also necessary to identify the symptoms of depression and get counseling after an abortion.
How to avoid infections after abortion?
You should know that regardless of whatever steps you take, every medical procedure carries some risks. However, there are a number of steps that you can take to avoid infections after an abortion. These are as follows:
- Be sure that somebody is with you when you go for abortion. Whether you are using the medical or surgical method, chances are high that you will end up feeling dizzy and maybe even slightly nauseous. This is why you require a support person.
- Monitor your own temperature so that you can take prompt steps if you see symptoms of fever and chills.
- Bleeding will occur after an abortion. Be sure to use sanitary napkins for the purpose. Use of tampons after an abortion can greatly increase the risk of infection.
- Nothing should be put into the vagina until you have experienced one normal period after the abortion. Vaginal sex is not desirable at this time as it increases the risk of infection. Douches should not be used.
- Antibiotics are routinely prescribed after an abortion. Be sure to take all these medications. Incomplete dosage can cause severe complications later on.
- Consumption of tobacco and alcohol or recreational use of drugs should be strictly avoided after an abortion. They hamper the effectiveness of the medications given after an abortion. Your body cannot recover its ability to fight infections and the risk increases. Caffeine is also to be drunk in moderation.
- Tub baths, bubble baths and swimming should be avoided after an abortion till you get your next period. They are a major factor causing post operative infection.
- You should know that repeated abortion carries their own risks. The uterus may be damaged, forming scar tissues which render you infertile. The cervix becomes much loose and this greatly increases the chances of miscarriage in a later pregnancy which is wanted. Repeated surgical procedure increases the risk of all types of infections. So, it is recommended that you use effective contraceptive measures to avoid unwanted pregnancies instead of repeatedly opting for abortion.
- Finally, depression or other psychological issues may happen after abortion. You may then neglect to take the precautions or the proper medication. This is why you should opt for counseling after an abortion as it would enable you to take good care of yourself physically as well as mentally.