Study: No Increased Risks Associated With Second vs. First Trimester Medication Abortions

A new study has found that women having second trimester medication abortions face no increased risk of future premature birth, miscarriage, low birth weight, or placental complications when compared to first trimester medication abortions. The study, to be published in the journal Contraception, examined the public health records of 88,552 Finnish women who, between 2000 and 2009, became pregnant for the first time, had either first or second trimester medication abortions, and subsequently went on to carry pregnancies to term.

Previous studies have found no increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight, or miscarriage in pregnancies following a first trimester medication abortion, and no increased risks comparing first trimester medication abortion with first trimester surgical abortion.

The new study, entitled Medical Termination of Pregnancy During the Second Versus the First Trimester and Its Effects on Subsequent Pregnancy, and conducted by a team led by Finnish researchers Jaana Mannist, MD, and Maarit Mentula, MD, PhD. is the largest available analysis of such risks. In conducting their analysis, the authors sought to correct for methodological flaws found in some earlier studies, such as failure to distinguish between the method of termination of pregnancy or the gestational age at which the pregnancy was terminated. The researchers concluded that their results suggest that second trimester medication abortion in a first pregnancy is “not associated with altered risks of preterm birth, low birth weight, SGA [smaller-for-gestational age] infants or placental complications in subsequent pregnancy, compared with first trimester.”

“The data,” they continue, “are of value when counseling women undergoing second trimester [abortion]. The question of whether or not MTOP [medical termination of pregnancy] during the second trimester is safer than surgical TOP [termination of pregnancy] in terms of adverse events in the next pregnancy remains to be studied.”

The results of this study directly contradict persistent efforts by some legislators to either ban outright, legislate the administration of, or interfere in the delivery of medication abortion, all in the name of health and safety.

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  • L-dan

    That’s great research to see. Frankly it’s reassuring as we see restrictions driving more women to ‘do it yourself’ medication abortions that are likely to include many in the second trimester.

    Which is not to say “whew, guess we can stop worrying about those restrictions now that the do it yourself variety are hopefully a bit safer than we might have thought”

    • fiona64

      Exactly. Cue the drive-by anti-choicers spewing false information any minute now, all the same.

    • Arachne646

      Two medications are rarely used in “do-it-yourself” abortions, since the one commonly known as RU-486 isn’t available without a prescription in Mexico and South America to treat stomach ulcers. Using just misoprostol (a brand name is Cytotec) is much less effective, works on early pregnancies, and could cause blood loss which could certainly become life threatening in itself–especially if a woman were alone, or afraid of being found out. I’m worried that, though we might just see more women arriving at Emergency Departments with “partial miscarriages”, some women may again die from abortions that are performed without medical assistance–not from organ perforations and blood poisoning, but blood loss and shock. Dead is dead, and anti-woman, anti-choice activists will be to blame.

      • L-dan

        That’s what I get for reading quickly. Of course they’re doing standard medication abortion with both medications in the study, while the shadow market pills are only one. *embarrassed facepalm*

        I do sort of hope that it may indicate that using only Cytotec may also be less risky than feared, simply because it’s very likely that women will do so. It’s still craptacular that abortion access has become so restricted; I’m grasping at the teeny rays of sunshine there. *sigh*