Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”. A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep, and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.
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Unplanned pregnancies and abortion can take a toll on women’s health, which is why it is important to follow certain rules.
Motherhood is a choice, but for many women, it becomes an obligation. Giving birth to a child is a privilege, but in the Indian context it may be under pressure and coercion due to our socio-cultural norms. Sometimes, women may not have a say, as to when and how many times they want to bear a child. As a result, she is at the receiving end of a system, where she could not access/use contraception and is bearing an unplanned or unintended pregnancy.
For such situations, the Government of India has established an act called MTP (Medical Termination of pregnancy) Act. Under this act pregnancy can be terminated under strict rules and regulations by doctors, who are qualified and trained in such medical and surgical procedures.
This law was brought about with the sole purpose of reducing maternal deaths, resulting from unsafe abortions which were happening due to procedures by unskilled providers as a profit-driven service. The objective was to provide safe abortion services under the legal umbrella with the following requisites:
- Abortion has been legal in India since 1971 under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
- The trained doctor gets to decide if it is safe to get an abortion for the concerned woman, and whether she is eligible or not.
- The law gives the right to choose abortion to adult women with confidentiality to be strictly maintained. Consent of others is not needed.
- The government has increased the legal limit of abortion from 20 to 24 weeks (only in special cases for eg, rape, minors, disabilities, major foetal malformation etc.)
- Opinion of two registered medical practitioners is needed when termination for 20 – 24 weeks is considered.
- Failure of contraception: Condition extended to unmarried women also .
Looking at the laws, they still have their limitations and loopholes, which need to be addressed.
What is an unplanned pregnancy?
An unplanned pregnancy is an unintended pregnancy where conception has happened by chance at a time, when the couple do not wish to have a child. Most unplanned pregnancies are the result of the lack of use of contraceptives or not using contraceptive methods in the right way. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unwanted pregnancies may lead to numerous health risks for both the mother and her child.
Risks of an unplanned pregnancy
An unplanned pregnancy can affect the overall health of the women:
- An unplanned pregnancy can expose women to the risk of unsafe abortion.
It can lead to malnutrition or other illnesses in children and mothers.
- Since there are many obstetric risks involved, it can also lead to death during the abortion process.
- Unintended pregnancies can further lead to poverty, abuse, and negligence and economic deprivation.
- Unintended pregnancy can affect the young mother’s chances of education and career growth.
- Unintended pregnancy has the potential to affect the mother’s mental health, which can have long-term consequences.
- It can also harm a child’s healthy growth after delivery in some situations.
Delving deep into abortion
Abortion is one of the safest and legally permitted options, but access to abortion services is still a hindrance in achieving successful fertility goals. An abortion can turn unsafe if not done rightly, according to medical standards. It can increase the risk among women with unwanted pregnancies in middle or lower-income countries or nations that restrict women from terminating the pregnancy in any case. The World Health Organization reported 73.3 million abortions worldwide from 2015-2019.
Risks of abortion: What the counselor must tell you
Before you choose the procedure to terminate your pregnancy, it is important to be aware of its side-effects to prepare better for your abortion:
- The vaginal bleeding after abortion can last up to 14-21 days.
- Women are likely to experience cramping, dizziness, vomiting, and drowsiness, and of course bleeding per vagina like a heavy period.
- If not done under the right medical environment and skills, it will need other additional surgical procedures.
- It can infect the uterus or fallopian tubes.
- Abortion can lead to septic shock.
- The surgical procedure can leave scars inside the uterus.
- The procedure sometimes weakens the cervix, and can increase the risk of preterm delivery in the future.
- Repeated abortions will increase risk of complications in next pregnancy, and also increase risk of subfertility in future.
Prevention and care
Unwanted pregnancies and abortions can affect women in many ways; it can also damage the quality of life and other experiences, which can traverse life-threatening conditions. It is important to prepare yourself for the medical procedure and prevent complexities by taking care of yourself.
- Be alert and take action during early pregnancy, especially if you are not on a regular method of contraception or the method you are using has failed ( eg. condom break or missed pill). It is also possible to use a method called emergency contraception in such situations.
- Visit the appropriate doctor and facility identified by the government for safe abortion service, for evaluation of medical history, examination, counseling, abortion service, follow up and ensuring contraception use.
- Discuss your feelings with someone close.
- Take medical prescriptions as directed by the doctor to avoid infections and other problems.
- Use a heating pad for cramping and keep pain relievers in case of intense pain.
- Report to hospital in case of heavy bleeding ,fatigue or intolerable pain.
- Adopt a regular method of contraception as soon as possible.
Unplanned pregnancy and abortion can be shocking to women and can affect their life in many ways. The recovery time for the procedure can differ in every single woman. It is necessary to take care of your body and provide it with all the essential nutrients and care to redeem normalcy.
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