Abortion is one of the most common health interventions. It is safe when carried out using the methods suggested by WHO. But did you know 6 out of 10 of all unintended pregnancies lead to abortion, and about 56% of all abortions in India are unsafe?
Unsafe abortion leads to mental and physical health complications and financial and social burdens for women and health systems. Lack of access to timely, safe, respectful, and affordable abortion care is the most common public health issue at this juncture.
Since the introduction of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act in 1971, abortion in India has been legal under different circumstances. In 2003, the act was amended to enable women’s accessibility to legal and safe abortion services.
Reasons associated with repeated abortions in India
Abortions can be due to multiple socio-demographic factors like sex, age, race, education, religion, family income, occupational status, and individual health.
Women with low socioeconomic status are at higher risk of abortion due to unplanned pregnancy. Studies also revealed that older women are at a greater risk of having an abortion compared to younger women.
Moreover, female sex workers suffering from sexually transmitted diseases and HIV also opt for an abortion. They also bump into unplanned pregnancies due to a lack of awareness and knowledge on the use of condoms and contraceptives.
Furthermore, lack of sex education among girls and women also significantly contributes to unplanned pregnancies, leading to induced abortions.
Reasons for unsafe abortions in India
Due to various social and economic barriers, abortions are considered highly unsafe for some women. In fact, unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal deaths in the country, contributing to 8% of all such deaths every year, with 13 women dying each day.
Some of the reasons why women opt for abortion outside the authorized abortions centres are:
- High costs at hospitals in the cities. The charges of the private sector are huge and unaffordable for poor people.
- Women are unaware of the need to seek abortion early in pregnancy.
- Women are unable to fulfil the requirements as per the MTP act, thus leading to unsafe means.
- Absence of competent health professionals and poor quality of care in government hospitals in the rural area as these areas lack registered medical infrastructure, supplies, and providers.
- Hesitation in obtaining services from known neighbourhood hospitals due to lack of confidentiality.
Abortion, as most women are aware, can also add potential side effects and risks to your body and future health.
Common side effects
- Excessive bleeding
- Damage to cervix or womb
- Septic shock or sepsis
- Uterine perforation
- Incomplete abortion
- Uterus infection
- Scarring on the inside of the uterus
- Future preterm deliveries
Abortion increases a women’s risk of future pre-term deliveries because it weakens the cervix. In two recent studies, it was found that one induced abortion increases the risk of pre-term birth subsequently by between 25% and 27%.
After repeated abortions, a women’s risk of pre-term birth increases between 51% and 62%. Premature births carry serious health risks for infants.
Infants who are born before 37 weeks have a lower chance of living to adulthood. Those surviving have a significant risk of severe disabilities such as intellectual impairment, cerebral palsy, autism, and psychological development disorders.
- Breast cancer
Abortion is considered to interrupt the normal cycle of hormones during pregnancy. It is believed that this interruption might increase the risk of developing breast cancer in women.
A 2013 analysis reported a 44% increased risk of breast cancer among women who had a minimum of one induced abortion. For those who had repeated abortions, the risk increased to 76% and 89%, respectively.
- Mental health
Women who have had repeated abortions are at an increased risk for mental health problems. Nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was due to abortion.
Some of the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as grief, regret, guilt, suicidal thoughts, sadness and anxiety were seen among women who had an abortion.
- STDs and pelvic inflammatory disease
Chlamydia present in the cervical canal during the abortion in asymptomatic women increases the risk of postabortal. Among women suffering from Chlamydia infection during the abortion, 23% develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) within four weeks.
PID can lead to serious problems like ectopic pregnancy, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and abscess formation.
- Abortion and sexual dysfunction
Some women also experience sexual dysfunction after abortion. Problems such as decreased sexual desire, increased vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, and loss of orgasm ability are seen among women with early pregnancy termination.
- Infertility and future childbearing
Induced abortion can result in complications such as damage to the uterus and infection, which can lead to infertility and increased risks of future childbearing.
The risk of these complications increases in women who have a high risk of uncontrolled high blood pressure, uterine rupture, diabetes, severe kidney, lung, or liver disease, certain heart or blood vessel diseases, smoke heavily and take blood thinners or certain steroid medications.
Cervical incompetence symptoms were seen among 75% of women who undergo forced dilation for abortion.
The emotional phase
Women experience different emotions after an abortion. Some may feel relief that the procedure is over, while others may feel sad, empty, or guilty.
Some women have reported serious psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, grief, regret, flashbacks, substance abuse, and lower self-esteem after their abortion. These emotions may appear gradually over a long duration or immediately after an abortion. These feelings may reoccur after another abortion.
In such situations, counselling or support before and after is very important. Talking to a professional counsellor will help women better understand their decisions and the feelings they might experience after abortion.
Infano believes every woman, despite their age, sexuality, and demographics, should have complete rights over their body and decisions. If you are someone with a story to share, reach out to us — share it with us and the world. Let there be love and hope!