Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Nov;128(5):1065-1070.

Safety of outpatient surgical abortion for obese patients in the first and second trimesters

Benson LS, Micks EA, Ingalls C and Prager SW


Objective: To evaluate the relationship between obesity and surgical abortion complications in the outpatient setting.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 4,968 women undergoing surgical abortion at a large outpatient clinic network from September 2012 to July 2014. We used log-binomial regression to evaluate body mass index (BMI) as an independent risk factor for first- and second-trimester abortion complications. Body mass index was analyzed as both a continuous and categorical predictor. We assessed complications including need for uterine reaspiration (including same-day reaspiration), uterine perforation, cervical laceration, infection, emergency department visit or hospitalization, and excessive blood loss defined as estimated blood loss greater than or equal to 100 mL.

Results: The majority (77%) of procedures was performed in the first trimester. Forty-seven percent of women were normal weight or underweight, 28% were overweight, and 25% were obese, including 4% with BMI greater than or equal to 40. The overall complication rate was 1.7%; the most common complications were need for uterine reaspiration (1.0%) and excessive blood loss (0.6%). Obesity was not associated with increased risk of surgical complications, including when adjusting for age, gestational age, and history of prior cesarean delivery.

Conclusion: In a high-volume outpatient abortion clinic with experienced health care providers, abortion is very safe. Obesity does not appear to be an independent predictor for abortion complications and should not be used in isolation to refer women to hospital-based facilities for abortion care in the first or second trimester.

Comment: From time to time we hear about a woman with obesity and a wish to terminate her pregnancy, who is being referred to a hospital, because the local center is afraid of undetected complications. This study shows that that fear is unnecessary: Also, obese women can benefit from safe medical abortion. For them it is probably even safer and easier than a surgical abortion. (HMV)