Women having abortions could be seriously affecting the health of children they may have in the future, research has found.
Having one abortion may increase the risk of a later premature birth by 20 per cent. Two or more abortions may increase the chances by 90 per cent.
Mothers who have had more than one abortion also double their risk of having a very premature baby – earlier than 34 weeks – according to the research.
Extremely premature babies are more likely than full term babies to suffer from a learning difficulty, and some suffer from cerebral palsy, blindness, or deafness.
Dr Robbert van Oppenraaij headed the research team which published its findings in a report for the European Reproduction and Embryology Society.
Dr van Oppenraaij said: “It can be concluded that a history of abortion is associated with an increased risk for premature delivery and very premature delivery.”
The research looked at over 75 investigations conducted between 1980 and 2008 and showed an association between abortion and premature births. The authors said further research would be needed for a clearer link to be established.
The findings come as official UK statistics show that hundreds of abortions have been performed on 13-year-old girls.
Department of Health figures show that more than 450 abortions were performed on under 14s between 2005 and 2008, a figure the Conservative health spokesman has described as “tragic and disturbing”.
In 2007, nearly 6,000 women aged under 20 had their second, third or even fourth abortion.
In 2008, the FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) promoted a DVD to 14-year-olds which said abortion was unlikely to cause physical or emotional problems.
This was despite the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ earlier warning that having an abortion can damage a woman’s mental health and their recommendation that women should be informed of the risks before proceeding.
Over 200,000 women a year in England and Wales terminate their pregnancies.
Across all age groups last year more than 64,000 abortions were repeat abortions – the largest figure on record.
The Conservative health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, said: “When you look at the cases of young girls having abortions repeatedly, this is not just tragic and disturbing, but totally unnecessary.”