Background — A woman's risk of venous thromboembolism during pregnancy is estimated to be two-to-six times higher than her risk when she is not pregnant. Such risk estimates are largely based on pregnancies that result in delivery of a newborn baby; no estimates exist for the risk of venous thromboembolism after induced abortion, another common pregnancy outcome. To fill this knowledge gap, we aimed to assess the risk of venous thromboembolism in women whose first pregnancy ended with induced abortion.
Methods — We did this propensity score-matched cohort study using data from the universal health-care system of Ontario, Canada. We included primigravid women who had an induced abortion between Jan 1, 2003, and Dec 31, 2015, and used a propensity score to match them to primigravid women who had a livebirth (1:1) or nulligravid women who were not pregnant on the procedure date of their matched counterpart and who did not conceive within 1 year afterwards (5:1). We excluded from our analysis women younger than 15 years or older than 49 years and individuals who had missing or invalid information about their sex, area of residence, residential income, or world region of origin. The primary outcome was risk of any venous thromboembolism within 42 days of the index date (defined as the date of an induced abortion, delivery date for livebirth, or for non-pregnant women the induced abortion date of their matched counterpart). We compared the rate of venous thromboembolism in primigravid women who had an induced abortion with the rate of venous thromboembolism in propensity-score-matched non-pregnant women and propensity-score-matched primigravid women whose pregnancy ended with a livebirth. We generated hazard ratios (HRs) of 42-day risk of venous thromboembolism after induced abortion using Cox proportional hazard models.
Findings — We identified 194 086 eligible women whose first pregnancy ended with induced abortion, of whom 176 001 (90·7%) could be matched with women whose first pregnancy ended in delivery of a newborn. These 176 001 women were also matched to 880 005 non-pregnant women. The rate of venous thromboembolism within 42 days of an induced abortion was 30·1 (95% CI 22·0–38·2) per 100 000 women compared with 13·5 (11·1–16·0) per 100 000 women in the non-pregnant group (HR 2·23, 95% CI 1·61–3·08). The HR was 0·16 (95% CI 0·12–0·22) when compared with the women in the livebirth cohort, whose venous thromboembolism rate within 42 days postpartum was 184·7 (95% CI 164·6–204·7) per 100 000 women.
Interpretation — The 42-day risk of venous thromboembolism after an induced abortion is double that of a matched non-pregnant woman, and is significantly lower than after a livebirth. This novel information can inform estimates of peri-procedural risk of venous thromboembolism after induced abortion. Clinicians could consider a lower threshold for ordering a diagnostic test to rule out venous thromboembolism after induced abortion than they would in a non-pregnant woman.