Women who have "surgical" abortions are more likely in the future to give birth to babies prematurely than women who have medically-induced terminations according to a British Medical Journal study.

Prof Bhattacharya's team from the University of Aberdeen looked at more than 600,000 Scottish women and found a link between different methods of termination and the future likelihood of premature births.

Speaking at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen, Prof Bhattacharya said: "The one reason that we hypothesised could be the cause, is that there's something about surgical abortion that has an impact on the cervix and makes it less resilient in a subsequent pregnancy and therefore makes it more likely that there will be a pre-term birth.

"Like many other interventions in medicine, it's about the evidence but its also about the interpretation, preference and availability of facilities."

Researchers analysed anonymous records of Scottish women from 1981 to 2007 and found that abortions, in general, increased the risk of giving birth prematurely during future pregnancies by 37% in comparison to the risk for women who had never before been pregnant.

While so-called 'surgical terminations' were found to increase the risk of spontaneous pre-term births, women who underwent 'medical terminations', where pharmaceuticals are used to induce termination rather than a physical procedure, were not more likely to give birth prematurely than women who had never been pregnant before.

Prof Bhattacharya added: "This was interesting because there are other studies that have shown disagreement.

"A recent paper from Finland has found [that more abortions lead to a greater risk], but there are several aspects of that paper which are materially different from our work."

Over a quarter of induced abortions in Scotland in 2005 were repeat procedures, and over 70% of abortions are now medical.

Posted 05/09/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com