A new study by a Canadian researcher finds that women who have just one abortion increase the risk of having a premature birth in a subsequent pregnancy by 36 percent. The research is the latest in a long string of studies confirming the link between abortion and premature birth.
With premature births leading to an assortment of physical and mental health problems for unborn children, the researcher says women should be told of the risk before having an abortion.
Dr. Prakesh Shah, a professor at the Department of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto is the main author of the new study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
He found that women who have just one abortion in either the first or second trimester of pregnancy, when abortions are most routinely performed, have a 35 percent increased risk of having a low-birth-weight baby in the next pregnancy and a 36 percent increased risk of having a baby born prematurely.
The risk substantially increases for the millions of women who have had more than one abortion and become pregnant. In those cases, women having multiple abortions have a 93 percent increased risk of subsequently having a premature baby and a 72 percent increased risk of having an underweight baby.
Shah says that the reason for the post-abortion problems in future births is likely because the abortion can cause damage to the woman's cervix.
The Canadian pediatrician and medical professor told the London Daily Mail that women need to be informed about these very real medical risks from abortion. "When a woman comes for induced termination of pregnancy, she should be counseled about that risk. At least she will be able to make an informed choice," he said. "I think it should not be used as a way of saying, this is bad and we should not be doing this kind of thing. There is an association which we should be aware of, and we should let mothers be aware."
The new research is an analysis of 37 studies around the world carried out between 1965 and 2001 to determine whether a previous abortion has any effect on subsequent births.
The new study follows on the heels of European researcher Dr Robbert van Oppenraaij telling colleagues at the annual European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in Amsterdam that an abortion increases the risk of having a premature birth in a subsequent pregnancy.
He says one induced abortion raises the risk of premature birth in a next pregnancy by 20 percent. Two or more abortions raises the risk by 90 percent and doubles the risk of a very premature birth, at 34 weeks or less. "It can be concluded that a history of abortion is associated with an increased risk for premature delivery and very premature delivery," he said.