Frequent abortions linked to preterm birth

Washington: Women who have had three or more abortions have a higher risk of some adverse birth outcomes, such as delivering a baby prematurely and with a low birth weight, according to a new study.

The research found that among 300,858 Finnish mothers, 31,083 had had one induced abortion between 1996-2008, 4,417 had two, and 942 had three or more induced abortions before a first birth (excluding twins and triplets).

Those who had had three or more induced abortions had a small, but statistically significant increased risk of having a baby with very low birth weight (less than 1500g), low birth weight (less than 2500g), or of a preterm birth (before 37 weeks), or very preterm birth (before 28 weeks), compared to women who had had no abortions. There was a slightly increased risk of a very preterm birth for women who had had two induced abortions.

“Our results suggest that induced abortions before the first birth, particularly three or more abortions, are associated with a marginally increased risk during the first birth. However, the increased risk is very small, particularly after only one or even two abortions, and women should not be alarmed by our findings,” said Dr Reija Klemetti, an associate professor and senior researcher in public health at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland, who led the research.

Most of the induced abortions were surgically performed and nearly all were performed before 12 weeks gestation.

The researchers adjusted their findings to take account of various factors that could affect birth outcomes, such as social background, marital status, age, smoking, previous ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages. Multiple births (twins and triplets) were excluded.

The risk of having a baby born very preterm appeared to increase slightly with each induced abortion, but only the risk from two abortions or more was statistically significant.

The study has been published online in Europe’s leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction.