Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy can be one of the most challenging times in your life. It can bring about feelings of doubt, stress, and a lot of undue anxiety.
Navigating life through social distancing, closures, quarantines, and constant COVID-19 updates can cause worry, uncertainty, and even panic.
A combination of the two? It can make anyone feel completely overwhelmed, and understandably so. Even if your pregnancy was planned, you may be wondering if you should continue your pregnancy or if abortion or the abortion pill is a safe option for you.
Ultimately, before you make any decisions, coronavirus pandemic or not, the best thing you can do for yourself is to take your time and learn about all your options. At your consultation, you can learn more about side-effects, current precautions, and the long-term impact on your health.
COVID-19 and Abortion
If you are considering an abortion because you are unsure of the future, you are one of the millions of Americans affected financially by COVID-19, or you just are experiencing an unintended pregnancy and looking for a solution – we are here for you.
The abortion pill and surgical abortions always carry risks and side-effects to your health. Right now, elective surgical procedures are cautioned due to the unnecessary risk of spreading the virus. The good news is that time is on your side. We can walk through how the abortion pill works, different types of abortion procedures, and answer any questions you may have.
It’s important to know that as of this date, there has been no evidence of transmission from mom to baby in-utero. Fetuses and babies have remained healthy even in cases where the woman has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
In the first three months of the Covid-19 lockdown, March 25 to June 24, 47% of the estimated 3.9 million abortions that would have likely taken place in India in this span under normal circumstances were possibly compromised. This means that 1.85 million Indian women could not terminate an unwanted pregnancy, concluded a May 2020 modelling study conducted by the Ipas Development Foundation, India, a non-profit dedicated to preventing and managing unwanted pregnancies. Of these 1.85 million women, 80% or 1.5 million compromised abortions were due to the lack of availability of medical abortion drugs at pharmacy stores, the study found.
The estimation builds on data from telephone surveys of 509 public-sector facilities across eight states, 52 private-sector providers, expert opinion of members of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India, sales data on medical abortion drugs, and trend estimation by pharmaceutical industry experts.
How did the lockdown restrict women’s access to their choice of contraceptives, an essential?
In many ways, factors affecting women’s access to contraceptives during the lockdown were similar to that of abortion:
• Public health facilities were converted to Covid-19 care centers, limiting the availability of sexual and reproductive health [or SRH] services
• Clinical staff occupied with the Covid-19 response may not have had time to provide services or may have lacked personal protective equipment to provide services safely
• Private health facilities were either closed or limited their service provision due to provider unavailability, inadequate protective gear, or lack of mandatory Covid-19 testing arrangements
• Supply chain disruptions limited availability of contraceptives and stock-outs of many contraceptive methods
• Suspension of public transport facilities and curbs on movement restricted women’s mobility.
In addition, some specific reasons include:
• Temporary suspension of the provision of sterilisations and IUCDs in line with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s advisory till about mid-May, when revised guidelines were released. This meant that women were unable to use their preferred method of contraception especially if they needed long-term contraception.
• Involvement of ASHA workers in Covid-related surveillance work impacted the community-level distribution of contraceptives.
• Women refrained from visiting health facilities due to fear of Covid-19 exposure.
What are the likely choices for a woman who could not access contraception and discovers her pregnancy during the lockdown?
Possible choices for such a woman include:
• continuation of her pregnancy even though it may be unplanned or unintended;
• attempting an abortion during the lockdown through safe or unsafe methods [there are chances she may attempt medical abortion pills from a chemist outlet or visit a backstreet provider]; or
• waiting until the lockdown restrictions are relaxed and then undergo most probably a second-trimester abortion in a health facility [since it is likely that due to the lockdown she may have crossed the 12-week gestation limit of medical abortion].
For women, what are the long- and short-term impacts of being denied contraceptives?
Women who are unable to access contraceptives are likely to make decisions that may not be as per their preference – whether it be the continuation of their unintended pregnancy or second trimester or unsafe abortion. All of these are likely to have profound consequences for their overall health and well-being, including physical health since the unintended pregnancy may not ensure adequate spacing with the previous childbirth, as well as mental health [beyond the lockdown’s own impact]. Unsafe abortion may lead to morbidities with long-term consequences on health and in the worst case, result in mortality among women.
Dr. Ruchi Tandon, is a reputed Gynecologist, practicing in leading hospitals in South Delhi for last 13 years and has experience in handling all kinds of pregnancies and abortions.