An abortion sometimes known as termination is the medical process of ending a pregnancy (either by taking medications or having a minor surgical procedure) so it doesn’t result in the birth of a baby. When abortion happens on its own, it is called miscarriage or spontaneous abortion.
Abortions are legal in most countries, but the grounds on which they are permitted vary. In Canada, abortion is available to women without any legal restrictions while in Nigeria, abortion is illegal and carries a stiff jail sentence (up to 14 years), unless done to save the life of the pregnant woman.
According to WHO, the number of abortions worldwide is declining due to increased access to contraception.
Is Abortion safe?
Abortions carried out by doctors certified in the field are very safe. Less than 1 out of 100 women have a serious problem incurred from an abortion. The safest time to undergo an abortion is usually during the first trimester. This is when a low-risk medicine or vacuum aspiration procedure can be used.
Risks of Abortion
If carried out as early as possible in pregnancy, most women may not experience any problems. In fact, you may be able to get pregnant immediately afterwards, but there may be risk of complications, such as:
- Infection of the womb
- Some of the pregnancy remaining in the womb
- Excessive or heavy bleeding
- Damage to the entrance of the womb (cervix)
- Damage to the womb
However, it is not advisable for women who have anemia, bleeding disorders, liver or kidney disease, seizure disorder, acute inflammatory bowel disease, or who use an intrauterine device (IUD).
When is it safe to carryout abortion?
Most abortions in England, Wales and Scotland are carried out before 24 weeks of pregnancy. They can be carried out after 24 weeks in certain circumstances especially if the mother’s life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability. The length of your pregnancy is calculated from the first day of your last period. If you’re not sure how long you’ve been pregnant, an ultrasound scan is used to check.
Abortions are simpler and safer the earlier they’re carried out. Getting advice early during complications in pregnancy, will give you more time to make a decision if you’re unsure.
Types of abortion procedures
A physical exam is first given in order to determine eligibility for the type of medical abortion procedure suitable for an individual. The types are:
- Surgical Abortion – This involves a minor operation of two types:
- Vacuum aspiration using local anaesthetic, sedationor general anaesthetic (depending on the weeks). The pregnancy is removed by gentle suction.
- Dilatation and Evacuation carried out under general anaesthetic between 15 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. The pregnancy is removed using narrow forceps through the neck of the womb (cervix). Cervical preparation is done on the day of surgery or possibly the day before.
- Abortion Pill – This is a drug medically called ‘mifepristone’ that ends a pregnancy. It works by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue. The abortion pill can be used up to 24 weeks of pregnancy
The abortion pill is followed by another medicine called misoprostol, which makes the womb contract, causing cramping and bleeding similar to a miscarriage.
Article by: eDokita Team
- Emedicine Health, Overview of an Abortion. 2016
- NHS Choice health, Risk of an Abortion. 2016
- WebMD, what is Abortion, How safe is Abortion? 2016.
- United Nations Population Division.Abortion Policies: A Global Review.
- British Pregnancy Advisory. Treatment on surgical abortion. 2015
- British Pregnancy Advisory. Types of Abortion Treatment. 2015