With the current pandemic situation, we now live in a unique time where we are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to avoid the risk of contracting coronavirus. Life as we know it has completely changed. Wearing a mask is the norm, stores are limiting the number of customers allowed in, we have to keep a distance of six feet from each other, and healthcare is not as easily accessible right now. Meanwhile we are all trying to go about our daily routines of work, paying the bills, completing our chores, going to school, raising kids, running errands, maintaining relationships, etc.…. Life is hard enough without the coronavirus. Adding an unplanned pregnancy to the mix can elicit a wide range of emotions. With the natural stress that pregnancy can present on any woman, an unplanned pregnancy in the midst of a pandemic may lead women to more drastic measures, such as considering at-home abortions. In this article we’ll look at the facts. What are at-home abortions? What do they entail? What are the risks associated for the mother and baby? Are there alternative options available? A good rule of thumb in any scary situation is to slow down and consider your options in order to make an informed decision that you feel confident you can live with long term.
What is an at-home abortion?
An at-home abortion is also known as a self-induced abortion; it is a self-managed abortion which includes taking the abortion pill, or following other directions posted online for an abortion. Be aware that at-home remedies such as herbal remedies, physical exercises, soaking in a hot tub, or inserting foreign objects vaginally are not effective and can cause more health problems for you than the baby (1). These abortions can end in an incomplete abortion where the baby survives (sometimes with disabilities), life threatening complications for the mother, permanent injuries for the mother, or scarring which can cause future infertility (4).
The Abortion Pill
Many women are utilizing the abortion pill, also known as RU-486 or Mifeprex and Misoprostol. These drugs must be prescribed by a licensed health care provider. Abortion Pills that are purchased online may not be the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication. Purchasing this drug over the internet will bypass necessary safety measures created to protect your health. Also, purchasing online means that you will not have the ultrasound needed to verify that the fetus is inside the uterus and rule out a potentially fatal ectopic (outside of the uterus) pregnancy.
Mifeprex and Misoprostol have a “black box” warning, meaning they have the highest level of caution that the FDA can put on a medication (1). When both drugs are used together within the first 70 days of pregnancy, it is claimed to be 98% effective; as a pregnancy progresses further (beyond 70 days) these rates decrease (4). Common side effects of these drugs include (fda.gov) (2):
Other risks associated with these medications include infection (if not all contents of the uterus are expelled), hemorrhage, an incomplete abortion, possible allergic reaction if there is an unknown allergy to these drugs, and future infertility. These medications can also be harmful for those suffering with porphyria, adrenal insufficiencies, bleeding disorders, women with an Intrauterine device (IUD), or for those being treated with long term corticosteroids (2). The FDA reports that since being approved in 2000, Mifeprex has been responsible for the death of 24 women, 97 ectopic pregnancies, 599 blood transfusions, and 412 infections, with a total of 4,195 reported adverse events (2).
Herbal Remedies are misleading because they are viewed as natural and holistic, but even herbs, vitamins, spices, supplements, and other foods can be toxic if taken in large quantities. Everything we consume must be filtered through our liver; herbal remedies ingested in high amounts can damage the liver and even cause liver failure. Ingesting toxic substances has never been proven effective for abortions or safe for the mother, and therefore should be avoided.
Performing surgical abortions without training
Inserting objects vaginally to induce an abortion at home is unsafe and can be life threatening for the mother. For this reason, this type of at-home abortion should never, under any circumstances be attempted. Risks include hemorrhaging, infection from using unsterile objects, and genital scarring that can cause infertility and other health problems (4). Any surgery comes with the standard risks of infection and hemorrhage, even if done professionally. Infections must be quickly treated by a healthcare provider as they can spread to the bloodstream which is known as sepsis, potentially resulting in death. Hemorrhage is a significant amount of blood loss that may not be able to be controlled and can also lead to death if too much blood is lost.
Soaking in hot water
While health care providers discourage expectant mothers from soaking in a hot tub or hot bath, this is not a sure way to abort a fetus at home. Studies have shown that this technique may or may not end the pregnancy, but this method can cause birth defects, such as brain and spinal cord defects (4). Since the baby’s organs being developed primarily in the first trimester, this is the most at-risk time for abnormalities to occur.
According to Mayo Clinic, neither routine nor high impact exercises are known to cause miscarriages. Exercise in moderation is encouraged during pregnancy for those without underlying health issues to maintain health and wellness (3).
So, what are the options?
Help is available to offer support and help create a plan of care for women in need of pregnancy resources. No decision needs to be made immediately, as 1 in 3 pregnancies are statistically shown to end in miscarriage in the first trimester (1). Take the necessary time to comprehend the situation before coming up with a plan of action. When you are pregnant, your hormone levels are rising. This rise causes hyperemotional feelings, stress, nausea, and other pregnancy related symptoms. Pregnancy is life-changing for every person in any situation. Someone who finds themselves experiencing an unplanned pregnancy should take their time and consider all of their options so that the mother feels confident and comfortable in her decision.
There is no easy decision when it comes to an unexpected pregnancy. We can help you explore all of your options and avoid the psychological and physical side effects that may be caused by abortion. Studies have shown that abortion increases the probability of anxiety, depression, and reckless behavior such as drug use, alcoholism, or suicide (5). Care Net Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland is safe place with staff and volunteers available to share resources or just listen. We offer pregnancy tests, ultrasounds to confirm a pregnancy, STI testing, parenting classes, baby essentials (diapers, wipes, etc), formula, clothing, healthy relationship classes and more. All of Care Net SoMD’s services are offered at no cost (no insurance required) and in a confidential environment. We are here for you, contact us today by calling or texting 301-737-4604 or requesting support online.
Sara Buck, RN is one of Care Net Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland’s clinic nurses.