When Does Abortion Become Unsafe?

Like most campus girls, ‘Mary’ lived her life on the fast lane. Young, wild and free. You only live once after all. When she got pregnant, her boyfriend felt that she was trying to trap him with a baby. That was never her intention, so in a fit of anger and disbelief, she made a very painful decision; she terminated the relationship and the pregnancy. The pain that followed the decision cannot be compared to any pain she felt and feels to this day.
“I do not trust men and am so skeptical to happy relationships. I do not think I will ever get married,” she said.
“I do not know what to feel; I was never prepared,” she concluded.

Putting aside cultural, social and religious beliefs on abortion, the question on whether or not to abort depends on how well -prepared the couple, or the mother, feels they are ready for parenthood. Abortion is only allowed in Kenya if the health or life of the mother is in jeopardy, and that has to be certified by a qualified health practitioner. However, back street abortions are very rampant in Kenya.

According to a health study in 2012, there were an estimated 464,000 abortions in Kenya. 48 in every 1000 women between the age of 15 to 49 had procured an abortion. The number may have gone up ever since. The leading cause of termination of pregnancies is mostly because they are unplanned pregnancies.

However, the question one should ask themselves before they procure an abortion is, what will it spell for the future? You could unload a burden, for now, only to have to bear a heavier burden in future. An unsafe abortion refers to a terminated pregnancy performed by an unqualified personnel and/or in an environment wanting of medical standards. Such an abortion can cause complications leading to dire consequences which may be immediate or may take time- even up to months or years.

“Spontaneous abortion, which is secondary to genetic derangement, may lead to stress and depression. Just like rape, abuse, accidents and other painful experiences, abortion can lead to depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Illegal backstreet abortions can end up being fatal,” says Dr. Victor Odhiambo in an interview with Afromum.com.

The most common methods of inducing abortions that may be dangerous include drinking toxic fluids such as turpentine or bleaching agents like Jik, inserting twigs, metal hangers or a bone into the cervix, and exposing the abdomen to blunt trauma.As crude, as they sound, they are the only ones used by women who are unable to afford services by a qualified doctor.

Procuring an abortion may not affect your chances of becoming pregnant or having a normal pregnancy when you feel you are ready for it, but there are chances of developing womb infections if contaminated equipment is used.

The infection- known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, can spread to the fallopian tubes and the ovaries leading to increased risk of infertility or an ectopic pregnancy. It is advisable to use an antibiotic before an abortion to reduce chances of an infection and to promptly seek medical attention when the mother experience any sign of post-abortion infection.

In surgical abortions, the fetus is usually removed from the uterus using a vacuum device, a curet or a syringe. The cervix is first dilated, and the tighter the cervix the more force is used in dilation. The dilation stresses the tissues in the womb. This can be a painful process. It can also lead to the cervix and the uterus getting damaged and the mother being unable to conceive again unless corrective surgery is performed.

Sometimes, the cervix gets weakened and may lead to premature births in subsequent pregnancies. Other effects include increased chances of vaginal bleeding and low birth weight. The higher the number of abortions a woman undergoes, the more likely they are to experience such effects.

During pregnancy, the body undergoes certain hormonal changes to accommodate the newcomer. An abortion leads to the disruption of these hormonal changes which increases stress on the immune system. Such women are more prone to ovarian and liver cancer than a woman who doesn’t have a history of abortions. Damage to the cervix may also lead to cervical cancer.

Prolonged stomach pains after an abortion could mean some of the dead fetus are still left behind. The bleeding should last less than 3 days, after which you should seek medical help especially if it’s heavy as it could lead to anemia.

Abortion pills are a much safer option when it comes to termination of a pregnancy. They should, however, be prescribed by a qualified health practitioner and just like any other medication, caution should be taken to avoid abuse. The first pill is usually administered to kill the foetus, then the 2nd pill- misoprostol, taken within 72 hours of the first one to trigger the ejection of the dead foetus from the uterus.

Women who have previously suffered any form of clotting, are anaemic, those who suffer from porphyria or are experiencing diarrhea should stay away from the pills.

It is advisable to wait for at least a week after an abortion before engaging in sex. Even then, one should use contraceptives or protection as they could get pregnant again. The womb lining should also heal completely to be ready to hold another baby. This, therefore, means that you shouldn’t try to conceive again within a month of abortion.

It is possible, and affordable, to procure a safe abortion in Kenya. There are health clinics that offer dedicated services to those who feel they are not ready for a baby. If you feel unsure of what to do, you can always confide in someone you can trust. Depending on an individual’s mental strength and the circumstances at play, it could take one time to recover psychologically from an abortion. You, therefore, shouldn’t shy away from seeking support if you feel that you need it. You never have to walk alone.

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