While the option of abortion is legal and common, the reality of this decision is far more nuanced. It can have a lasting impact on one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. The process of making this decision is often complex and personal and should not be taken lightly.
Have you fully considered the impact that this decision may have on your life?
Illegal abortions are still rife
According to Sivenati Mancana, a nurse at Frontier Clinic in Queenstown, there have been reports indicating a notable rise in the number of women opting for illegal methods for terminating pregnancies in the Eastern Cape in 2022. Consequently, she underwent training to offer the necessary services in response to this trend.
A lack of accessible and confidential healthcare services for safe pregnancy termination may be pushing women towards dangerous methods, Mancana says.
She underscores the significance of patient confidentiality, emphasising that “upon entering our clinic, patients can be rest assured that their information is kept under wraps”.
Furthermore, she explains that women may resort to illegal clinics when they have surpassed the legal time frame for obtaining an abortion. According to the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act, any pregnant woman, regardless of age, can request an abortion if they are within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Mancana stresses that seeking out illegal abortion services can result in life-threatening consequences for patients. She urges women to seek legal and safe abortions, emphasising that their health and well-being should be the priority.
During her training, they were told the need to follow instructions for the use of abortion medication, as deviating from them can result in health risks. Mancana says the significance of responsible and informed use of such medications is important to prevent potentially harmful consequences.
“We hope that women seeking abortions can consider their options before resorting to illegal clinics. When things go wrong, some suffer in silence. We are here to support them and ensure that the procedure is done safely, rather than them facing the potential consequences.”
According to Dr Mxolisi Xulu from Mthatha, Eastern Cape, a woman is legally allowed to request an abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Xulu explains that while medical abortions are generally safe, there is a small chance of certain complications, such as excessive bleeding, infection, injury to the cervix or uterus, retained tissue from the pregnancy, or blood clots.
However, these complications are rare, and medical professionals take steps to minimise the risk, such as carefully monitoring patients and ensuring that the procedure is performed in a safe and sterile environment.
Xulu explains that women who have had a previous abortion may experience fertility problems or difficulties carrying a future pregnancy to term. This is known as secondary infertility.
It’s important to keep in mind that while most abortions are safe when performed by trained medical professionals, they are still a medical intervention and there is always a small risk of complications. It’s important to discuss these risks with a doctor before undergoing any medical procedure, he adds.
Awareness of risk is vital
It’s vital to remember that the decision to have an abortion is a personal one and that every woman’s experience is unique. If you are considering abortion, it’s important to be informed of all the potential risks and benefits, and to speak to a medical professional who can advise you on the best course of action for your individual circumstances says Xulu.
“These complications could potentially make it more difficult to conceive or carry a future pregnancy to term. It’s important for women to be aware of these potential risks before making a decision about abortion.”
He says according to experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, abortion does not typically affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant in the future. Additionally, pregnancy complications are not more likely if a woman chooses to become pregnant after an abortion.
Understanding the emotional impact
Luyanda Memela, a psychologist in KwaZulu-Natal, says having an unsafe abortion can cause mental health issues and feelings of depression. When an abortion is kept hush-hush, it can lead to difficulty conceiving later on if a partner wants a child, which can be a whole other bucket of worms.
Memela explains that the decision to have an abortion is a fundamental right, but when it’s done in a clandestine way by unlicensed clinics or providers, it can be downright disastrous. If something goes wrong during the procedure, it can result in serious complications, both physically and emotionally.
“The fallout from an abortion can be emotionally complex, and in some cases, can even lead to thoughts of suicide. This can be exacerbated by the desire to have children later but being unable to conceive.”
Not an easy avenue to travel
Memela recommends that seeking medical care after an abortion is crucial if anything goes wrong. Regular check-ups and therapy are also important for a successful recovery. Adoption can be a valuable alternative for people who cannot have children biologically, she adds.
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