Can You Still Have an Abortion if You Have an STI?

Pregnancy Care Clinic now offers STI Testing!

The term STD has been updated with the more accurate term, STI. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections that spread from one person to another through sexual contact. STIs can seriously compromise a woman’s reproductive health and general health overall. Medical risks can increase when STIs are undiagnosed and untreated. You might think you would know if you had an STI, but in reality, the most prevalent STIs are usually symptomless for women. Complications from untreated STIs include increased risk of getting or giving human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), future pregnancy complications or inability to get pregnant, and long-term pain [1]. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of confirmed cases of STIs has continued to rise significantly in the United States for the past five years in a row. People between the ages of 15 and 24 are at the highest risk. They account for about half of new STIs each year, although they only make up about one-fourth of the population. [2]. This information is particularly relevant if you are facing an unintended pregnancy and considering abortion. Here we will discuss the potentially dangerous combination of having an abortion while you have an untreated STI.

STIs and Abortion

Gonorrhea and chlamydia are two of the most common STIs.  Chlamydia is known as the “silent disease” because most women don’t experience symptoms; however, 75 percent of women don’t feel symptoms with gonorrhea either. A woman who has an undiagnosed and untreated STI is at risk for developing a severe complication called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) [3]. The risk of developing PID increases even further when you have any kind of abortion procedure, including a medical abortion. If you have untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea, you’re up to 23 percent more likely to develop PID after an abortion. The reason this happens is that bacteria from outside your body can be transmitted into your reproductive tract. Additionally, bacteria that are already present near your vagina or cervix can be pushed higher into your reproductive organs during an abortion, leading to PID. Often, women don’t have signs or symptoms, so they are unaware that they have PID. When symptoms do occur, they can range from mild to severe to life-threatening.

Symptoms of PID can include:

  • Pain in the lower abdomen (this is the most common symptom)
  • Pelvic pain
  • Fever (100.4° F or higher)
  • Increased vaginal discharge that may be odorous
  • Pain during sex
  • Painful and frequent urination
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Spotting in-between periods
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen caused by stomach or liver inflammation

PID can result in devastating consequences, including:

  • Infertility: inability to get pregnant due to scarring in fallopian tubes
  • Future pregnancy complications including ectopic pregnancy
  • Chronic pelvic pain and abdominal pain caused by scarring
  • A life-threatening blood infection
  • An abscess around fallopian tubes or ovaries, which can be fatal if ruptured

How To Prevent PID

PID isn’t always caused by STIs, but there are ways to prevent it when STIs are the cause. You can reduce your risk by staying in one monogamous relationship. Your chances of contracting an STI multiply rapidly with each additional partner, even if you have one monogamous partner after another. So it’s best to have just one faithful partner. As uncomfortable as the conversation can be, it’s best for both of you to get tested and discuss your results before having sex. A primary preventive measure is to get STI testing according to the CDC guidelines. The CDC recommends that all women younger than 25 years old who are sexually active should be tested once per year for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Women who are over 25 years old but have certain risk factors should also get tested yearly for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Risk factors include a new sex partner, multiple sex partners, or a partner who had an STI. STI testing and treatment are particularly vital before an abortion to prevent PID and its potential long-term effects. If you think you’re unexpectedly pregnant or have had a positive at-home pregnancy test, your first step is to get your pregnancy verified through a medical-grade pregnancy test. If your pregnancy test is positive, then your pregnancy needs to be confirmed by ultrasound. Since approximately 15 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, it’s essential to have your pregnancy confirmed by ultrasound, so you don’t have an unnecessary abortion for a pregnancy that would have ended naturally. March of Dimes reports that up to 50 percent of all pregnancies miscarry with most of those happening before the twelve-week point. Once your pregnancy is confirmed, it’s crucial to get tested for STIs, whether you decided to carry your pregnancy or have an abortion. If you choose to continue your pregnancy, STI testing is part of your routine obstetrical care. It’s not usually part of pre-abortion care at an abortion facility, so you need to have this done separately. We can provide you with information about local testing centers, which are free or low-cost.

Can You Still Have an Abortion if You Have an STI?

No, because of the reasons we have discussed, you should always be tested for STIs before an abortion and treated if the results are positive before having an abortion. It’s vital that you don’t have an untreated STI for a surgical or medical abortion (abortion pill). The good news is that chlamydia and gonorrhea are treatable with antibiotics. Although you will most likely be able to find an abortion facility that will provide you an abortion while you have an active STI or one that offers treatment simultaneously with abortion, it’s important to decide if your reproductive health is worth the risk.  
At Pregnancy Care Clinic, we can provide you a confidential pre-abortion screening. Our compassionate, licensed health care professionals offer free medical services, including pregnancy testing,  ultrasound pregnancy confirmation, and STI testing. Contact us today for an appointment.
[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, July 30). Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2018. Retrieved on March 25, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats18/infographic.htm [2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, December 7). Adolescents and Young Adults. Retrieved on March 25, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/adolescents-youngadults.htm [3] Office on Women’s Health. (2010, April 1). Pelvic inflammatory disease. Retrieved on March 26, 2020 from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/pelvic-inflammatory-disease