News Analysis

What happens when you don’t want the baby

September 12 - 18, 2007
Gulf Weekly What happens when you don’t want the baby

IN countries which ban abortions many pregnant women seek other ways to terminate their unwanted babies.

Two Bahraini women, who did not wished to be named, revealed how they risked their own lives in order to terminate their pregnancies. Farishta Saeed reports.

A 41-year-old housewife travelled to Egypt to have an illegal abortion carried out and the memories of the experience still haunt her.
“It still bothers me when I think of the abortion. It is not a nice reality to live with,” she said. “Ending the life of my baby was the last thing I wanted to do. I love children, I really do, but I was going through a difficult time with my husband and another child would have made things worse.”
She already had two children who she thought were suffering enough during the stormy period of their relationship.
“I didn’t want to bring another child into the world who would go through difficult times just because their parents were not doing well in their marriage,” she said. “Also, I wasn’t ready for it both emotionally and physically. 
“I know many people will say ‘why did you get pregnant when you don’t want to have a baby’. Yes, it was our fault. We did take all the precautions but unfortunately it just happened.”
Since abortion is illegal in Bahrain, she sought help from friends. “I knew someone who had an abortion in Egypt so I called her and took the doctor’s name from her,” she said.
“Although abortion is illegal in Egypt as well there are doctors who carry it out.  This lady warned me not to speak to the doctor directly in order not to get him in trouble.
“We set a date with him and by then I was three months pregnant.”
She said her husband was against the idea of abortion.“He just refused the idea and said that it was against our Islamic religion. 
“We kept arguing for months and at the end I threatened him that if he didn’t agree I would drink acid and put an end to both my life and the baby’s life.
“So he reluctantly agreed and we both travelled to Egypt.”
They went to a hospital where a special floor was designated to carry out abortion operations only.
“The floor was full of women, some of them very young.  For a second I felt sick in my stomach.
“The nurse called my name and took me to a very small and dirty room and asked me to change my clothes and get ready for the operation.
“They didn’t do any tests, no check-ups.  The nurse didn’t even ask me for my blood group in case of emergency,” she explained.
She was shocked when she entered the operation theatre.
“Everything in the room looked dirty.  The tiled floor, the walls, even the bed was dirty and very small. It was disgusting.
“They put me on the bed, give me an anaesthetic injection and I fell asleep within seconds,” she added. “When I woke up an hour later, they brought a light lunch for me and told me to come back the next day to check the bleeding.”
The cost of the operation was BD180.
She said: “Although I was relieved, I felt very bad and guilty.  It took me a while to get over the whole unhappy experience and get on with my life, but every now and then I wonder if the baby was a boy or a girl and what would he or she look like?
“It is sad, really.”

Another Bahraini woman took a concoction of pills to get rid of her pregnancy.
“I am a single woman, so ending my pregnancy was not an option for me, it was a MUST,” said the 38-year-old woman.
“I got pregnant when I was in a relationship with a man I loved. We did use protection but we found out later that it wasn’t 100 per cent safe,” she said.
“I was in deep trouble and had to get rid of the baby otherwise my family would have killed me or buried me alive.
“I heard from some friends about some pills which are usually taken for patients who suffer from ulcers which can be used to abort a baby. So I got myself a whole packet.”
In a bid to end the pregnancy she took four pills in the morning and four in the evening for three continuous days.
“I consumed 24 pills in three days and at the end I started to bleed but it was not strong enough to abort the baby so I was told by friends that I would have to walk a lot, run and even jump whenever I could,” she said.
“And that is what I did, walking around the house, running, and jumping in my bed without anyone seeing me.
“The experience was extremely painful. I had very strong cramps and I thought that I was going to die from the pain.”
A friend took her to hospital. She explained: “I went to the emergency section and told the nurse that I was two-months pregnant but I think that I had lost my baby. 
“As soon as the nurse checked me the fetus fell out.  She said I had to undergo a D&C (a procedure commonly performed to resolve abnormal uterine bleeding and to remove retained tissue in the case of an incomplete miscarriage).
“I got scared and realised that if they found out that I performed an illegal abortion they would call the police, so I told the nurse that I could not afford the cost of the operation there and then so I will go to Salmaniya Medical Complex and carry out the procedure later.
“So she gave me a release paper and I left the hospital. I went straight home, of course, and took some painkillers. 
“I couldn’t go to a hospital and get proper treatment and I couldn’t afford to travel abroad for medical help, so I simply let the matter go and by time the pain stopped.
“Now I suffer from many problems in my uterus because I didn’t do the D&C. In addition to that I have severe back pain and stomach cramps.
“I know as a single woman having sex was wrong, I also knew that abortion was forbidden in our religion, but what could I have done? How could I tell my parents that I was pregnant, it would have killed my mother.
“I was in love with the man who got me pregnant but unfortunately he didn’t offer to marry me or even support me financially to help solve the problem in at least a healthy way.”

What is an abortion?
AN abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death.  This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage, or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means.
“Abortion” can refer to an induced procedure at any point during pregnancy, it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability.

What is medical abortion?
It is an abortion caused by medicine. It can only be done in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. The medicine used for medical abortions is called mifepristone. This is a pill that blocks progesterone, a hormone needed for pregnancy. It causes the lining of the womb (uterus) to thin.
After taking mifepristone, the woman goes home. She comes back to the doctor a few days later to take another medicine called misoprostol. This medicine makes the uterus contract and empty. Many women have bleeding for about 13 days after taking it. Light bleeding or discharge (called spotting) can continue for several weeks.

What is surgical abortion?
It is a procedure done by a doctor to remove the lining of the womb. There are two common types: manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) and dilatation and suction curettage (D&C). They both use suction to empty the womb. MVA uses a handheld tool. D&C is done with a suction machine and tools.
MVA can be done in some countries in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and D&C can be done after the first month of pregnancy but before the end of the 13th week.
For both types, medicine can be given to help the woman feel calm.
Then the doctor injects the opening to the womb (cervix) with a medicine to make it numb.
The cervix is stretched open with a tool called a dilator and the doctor inserts a tube.
The uterus is emptied through this tube.

More on News Analysis