As a doctor, I get a lot of requests from a large number of women (and men!) to prescribe medication or schedule time for a procedure to terminate pregnancy known as abortion. Due to the increase of unwanted pregnancy among the general population, I am writing this as a public service.
Almost 80 million unwanted or unplanned pregnancies occur each year. An unwanted pregnancy is a pregnancy that a woman or girl decides, of her own free will, is undesired. Over half of this i.e. 46 million result in abortion, 20 million of which are unsafe.
An abortion is the termination of pregnancy by a deliberate intervention. This can be an extremely safe medical procedure when carried out by qualified personnel according to health policy guidelines, or it can be an unsafe abortion which defined as the termination of pregnancy carried out by someone without the skills or training to perform the procedure safely, or in a place that does not meet minimal medical standards, or both.
Africa has the highest rate of death caused by unsafe abortion of any region in the world (29,800 deaths each year). Unsafe abortions accounts for 12% of maternal deaths, most deaths (around 95%) are concentrated in developing countries. In Nigeria, Maternal Mortality Ratio is 1,100 per 100,000 live births. 1/3 of these deaths are due to unsafe abortion and 2/3 of those who die are young persons (10-24 years).
It is a general misconception that abortions are only done among young unmarried girls, but it actually occurs in all age groups, among both married and unmarried women. Women with and without children, seek abortions every year for various reasons which may include:
Personal reasons known only to the woman,
Health and prior medical considerations (such as HIV),
Socioeconomic and financial concerns,
Cultural reasons or societal pressure,
Relationship problems and complications,
A desire to stop childbearing/space births.
Studies carried out by the Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy (CAUP) and the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) showed that:
At least 610,000 pregnancy terminations occur in Nigeria yearly.
60% are performed by non-Physician provider.
60.1% of abortion seekers are young persons (15-24 years)
32.6% of abortion seekers are students.
63.2% of abortion seekers were never married.
58% of abortion seekers have had at least one previous abortion.
Dilation and Curettage (D&C) was the most common method used to terminate pregnancy (59.7%)
The commonest reasons given for pregnancy termination were: still in school (29.5%); Unmarried (19.3%); No need for more children and not yet ready for another child (19.0%).
Contraception knowledge at the community was 91.3% while ever use rate for contraceptive method was 36.0%.
The current use rate was 23.4% even among educated urban women.
In Nigeria, abortion is illegal as it is ONLY allowed to save the woman’s life. Providing an abortion or seeking one risks up to 7 years in jail; however this has not stopped or reduced the demand or performance of the procedure. Legally restricting abortion does not necessarily reduce the number of abortions that occur in a country. The legal status and availability does however affect the safety of abortion; as where abortion is legal and safe services are available, deaths and disability from abortion are greatly reduced.
Asides death, unsafe abortion can also lead to:
Hemorrhage or severe bleeding,
Sepsis or generalized infection,
Shock and organ failure,
Infection of the uterus,
Pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy,
Recurrent miscarriage and incompetent cervix with subsequent pregnancies,
Sterility and secondary infertility,
Psychological distress and trauma,
Financial drain due to high cost of treatment of complications.
Increased likelihood of death among children whose mother has died from abortion.
The deaths caused by unsafe abortion are preventable. Get informed. Don’t be a statistic. Use contraceptives, or abstain from sex!!!!
If you are pregnant and unsure of what to do, you may contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can explore other options. Your life might depend on it.