DIY abortions: To do or not to do?


By Roshni Chakrabarty

When 19-year old Shalini Mundra (name changed) sat down to take a breather from her badminton game, she felt that something was wrong. When she got up, she found a bloody patch on the seat. “The blood had totally soaked through my jeans! I didn’t even know when I started bleeding,” she said.

An hour and a half earlier, Shalini had pushed in four pills vaginally to induce a miscarriage of the 7-week-old fetus in her uterus. The bleeding lasted throughout the night. “I was going through one sanitary napkin per hour. I had never seen this much blood,” she added.

The next day the bleeding trickled down to a light flow but she still didn’t feel right. She waited for five more days to get most of the chemically-induced hormones out of her system and took a pregnancy test again. It turned out to be positive. An ultrasound confirmed her pregnancy; she made an appointment with a gynecologist and subsequently got a clinical abortion.

Not many are as lucky as Shalini when it comes to illegally sold over-the-counter abortion pills. “The guy took extra money because the pills are only supposed to be sold through a doctor’s prescription.” This trend has seen a huge rise in the sale of abortion pills with more and more women going to the doctor due to complications.

Sold under the brand name Cytotec, misoprostol is approved to induce abortion when taken with mifepristone, or RU-486. At times, doctors use it to induce labor, though it is not approved for that use. Apparently, the side effects from taking the pill vary from woman to woman.  Additionally, after the procedure, if a tiny portion of the foetus remains in the uterus, the woman would suffer from continuous bleeding. If left untreated, she could die. An ultrasound scan needs to be done to make sure that the abortion is complete. If not, the fetal remains need to be scraped out of the womb surgically in time. A medical abortion cannot be carried out in case of an ectopic or tubal pregnancy, where the fetus grows outside the uterus. Doing so can rupture the fallopian tube leading to infertility.

Though Shalini regrets not consulting a doctor before taking the pills, she vouches for the medical procedure and goes on to say: “If I had seen a doctor, he could have told me exactly how to take the pills and if my body was ready for it or not. However, I still think that if perchance this happens again, I would always choose the medical procedure rather than the surgical one.”

There are complications if the pills are not taken under medical supervision and if the pregnancy is of more than seven weeks. If taken at a later stage, the pills may cause severe infection, profuse bleeding and in rare cases, it even causes infertility making conception impossible in future.

“If the pills are taken without appropriate medical consult, many complications can surface. Understanding the duration and nature of the pregnancy is very important. Sometimes, it is an unnecessary intake of pills and at times, it might not even work. The chemists are unable to guide the buyers properly,” said gynecologist Anita Gupta to NewsGram.

Due to social stigma faced by any unmarried woman going in for an abortion, many don’t even report to have used a pill when they go in to the hospital for treatment in case of complications. Young girls try to dress and talk in a more mature manner to hide their age. It is due to these stigmas and a lack of proper sex education that more and more women are resorting to go for a discreet pill-popping. To avoid unsafe practices, doctors and health officials are training the pharmacists to responsibly dispense abortion pills. “However, to ensure their safety, one should always consult a doctor before buying these pills,” says Dr Gupta.