Incomplete Abortion – Causes, Symptoms & Risks

7 min read

Written by Ajanta Biswas

Ajanta Biswas

incomplete abortion

Abortions are painful both physically and mentally. However, in case of early detection of fetal abnormality, risky pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy, etc. abortion can be a wise decision. But sometimes improper abortion and late abortion can result in incomplete abortion. What is it and what are its causes, symptoms, and risk factors? Here is everything you need to know.

Abortion, whether medical or surgical, has its side effects and risk factors. Incomplete abortion is one such risk of abortion that can cause serious problems if not treated in time. So if you or any of your close ones are planning for an abortion then knowing the risks and treatment options will make you prepared for any mishaps.

In This Article

What is Incomplete Abortion?

An incomplete abortion is a condition that can occur when some parts of the placenta or fetal tissues remain inside the uterus after a surgical or medical abortion. Precisely, it occurs when the abortion procedure fails to remove all tissues of the pregnancy out of the uterus. It is also known as spontaneous abortion or incomplete miscarriage. Here termination of pregnancy occurs after a miscarriage but some products of the conception still remain inside.

How Common is Incomplete Abortion?

woman thinking

There is no such global statistical data about the incomplete abortion rate in women. This is because abortion is not legal in some countries. However, a study by Science Direct shows that the rate of incomplete abortion rises in medical abortions than in surgical ones. This is because women often try to abort unwanted pregnancies by taking a pill without consulting a doctor.

Another study published in Environmental Health Perspective shows that the problem of incomplete abortion occurs even after surgical abortion when the maternal age is beyond 35 years and the gestational age is beyond 12 weeks. This is because the process of abortion gets more complicated with the advancement of pregnancy days.

Abortions without expert supervision and medical negligence can also increase the chances of having this condition. Yet with all these factors, the rate of surgical intervention for incomplete abortion is very low. Because in most cases the body naturally gets rid of the tissues within a few days of abortion.

Causes of Incomplete Abortion

An incomplete miscarriage occurs mostly due to chromosomal abnormalities. However, there are various other factors like 

1. Structural Anomalies

Incomplete abortion can occur if there is any structural abnormality in the uterus of the woman. Uterine fibroids or uterine birth defects can cause structural problems that can prevent the removal of all pregnancy tissues as suggested by a report published in the International Journal of Human Genetics.

2. Fault in the Cervix

If the cervix is weak, it shrinks or opens up with the increasing load in the second or third trimester. Thus the incompetence of the cervix can cause late miscarriage and preterm labor. Both of them can lead to incomplete abortion.

3. Unsafe or Unsupervised Abortions

It is necessary to have your abortion from a recognized medical center. But often in cases of unwanted pregnancies or pre-marriage pregnancies, teenage girls or women rely on illegal, unauthorized institutions. This is because they want to hide their identities and avoid social humiliation. But you must know that unsafe abortion means risking your life. As it can not only increase the risks of incomplete abortion but also other life-threatening surgical injuries and infections.

4. Lack of Information About Abortion

There is not enough information or “misinformation” about abortion in the general public that increases the chances of incomplete abortion. Taking medicines for abortion without a doctor’s consultation can lead to incomplete abortion.

Signs and Symptoms of Incomplete Abortion

woman holding abdomen

The symptoms vary according to the gestational period and substance of the pregnancy left inside after abortion. The general symptoms and signs of an incomplete abortion are

1. Bleeding

It is the most common symptom of incomplete abortion. The amount of bleeding can vary from person to person. But unlike menstrual bleeding, this type of bleeding will continue and can increase in amount even after 6 days.

2. Excretion of Fetal Tissues

You may also notice several blood clots or fetal tissues in the vaginal discharge. Inform your doctor if you notice any abnormality in your vaginal bleeding after abortion. 

3. Pain in the Back and Lower Abdomen

You will get mild to moderate cramping and pain in the abdomen and back portion. This happens as your body tries to squeeze out the remaining tissues through contractions.

4. Vaginal Infection

Without timely treatment and hygiene, incomplete abortion can cause a vaginal infection that leads to foul-smelling vaginal discharge and fever.

5. Fever With Chills

Fever with chills, dizziness, and diarrhea after abortion can also indicate incomplete abortion. A prompt consultation can help you avoid further complications. 

Diagnosis of an Incomplete Abortion

Your doctor may diagnose this condition by noticing the symptoms and checking the uterus through a bimanual examination. For further confirmation, the doctor may ask for a blood test to check the hCG levels. A transvaginal or transabdominal ultrasound test can also be an effective diagnostic test to confirm incomplete abortion.

Risk Factors of Incomplete Abortion

pregnant woman high risk pregnancy

Although it is impossible to predict a particular risk factor responsible for such conditions. Here are some factors can increase the risk

  • Diabetes, renal disease, hypertension, and PCOS of the mother
  • Overweight or underweight of the mother
  • Late pregnancy
  • Exposure to toxins such as excessive alcohol and caffeine, drugs, and radiation
  • Already existing STDs like Listeria monocyte gene in the mother
  • Abnormality in the shape or structure of the uterus or cervix

Treatment Options for Incomplete Abortion 

In most cases, the body expels the remaining pregnancy tissues through multiple contractions and vaginal discharge in a few days. So your doctor can even advise you to wait for a few days before conducting any manual removal process. If the condition continues or gets severe with time then your doctor may suggest suitable treatment options like 

1. MVA Technique

In MVA or Manual Vacuum Aspiration technique is the most common treatment for this condition. Here the doctor will remove the remains of pregnancy tissues with the help of a handheld device.

2. D & C Technique

In the Dilation and Curettage technique, the doctor dilates the cervix and removes the remaining tissues by using a curette. You will be put under general anesthesia as this technique is a bit more invasive than the MVA.

3. Medicines

If your condition is not severe or you do not want surgery then, based on your condition, your doctor may prescribe suitable medications to complete the abortion. 

Complications of Incomplete Abortion

complications of incomplete abortion

Incomplete abortion can result in multiple complications if it is not treated on time. Talk to your doctor and get complete information about what you can expect and what is abnormal after an abortion. Here are a few

  • Infection
  • Anemia due to heavy continuous bleeding
  • Uterine hemorrhage
  • Scarring of the uterus that can cause future infertility
  • Malignant transformation that can cause cancer

Tips to Help You Cope With Incomplete Abortion

If you are going through an incomplete or even a normal abortion then this is a difficult time for you. But it is important to recover from this situation as soon as possible. To cope with incomplete abortion both physically and mentally do not hesitate to ask for help. Talk to your closest ones who will not judge you. Talk to a psychiatrist if you are facing guilt or depression after pregnancy loss. Do meditations and yoga to heal your mind and body.

Incomplete abortion can be one of the serious side effects after an abortion whose signs you must not neglect. Incomplete abortion due to chromosomal abnormality or incompetency of the reproductive organs is unavoidable. But you can surely prevent incomplete abortions resulting from a lack of information and medical incompetencies. Talk to your doctor and ensure to put each and every concern on their table to get the right guidance. 


1. What is the Difference Between Incomplete Abortion and Septic Abortion?

Septic abortion occurs as a result of incomplete abortion when the remaining tissues of pregnancy get affected by uterine infection. Mainly bacteria infect the remaining tissues and cause foul-smelling discharge, abdominal pain, and fever. Antibiotics can heal septic abortion.

2. How Long Does it Take for an Incomplete Abortion to Pass?

The duration of clearing out all the pregnancy tissues will depend on the time of the abortion. Early pregnancy abortions are smooth and within two to three days the uterus can shed everything. But in delayed abortions, the uterus can take a few days to weeks to completely shed the remains and heal.

3. Why do my Lower Abdominal Muscles Hurt After Having an Abortion?

Lower abdomen muscles can hurt after an abortion due to various reasons. It can be due to uterine contractions, healing of the inner inflammations, pain in the incision site, and infections. Mild to moderate abdominal pain for one to two days is normal after abortion. But consult with the doctor if it continues even after 4 to 5 days.

Ajanta Biswas,MA (English)

Studying English literature has been highly instrumental in creating a love for English and World Literature for this writer. Ajanta has been writing for more than two years. She specializes in creating short and crisp blogs that can create awareness among women about healthy pregnancy and among parents about better parenting.Read more.

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