Abortion is the termination of pregnancy before the fetus is viable; the period of viability is often referred to between 23 and 24 weeks of gestation. In some pregnancies, the fetus is spontaneously aborted by the body. In other cases, unwanted pregnancies are medically or surgically terminated.
Induced abortions are not only ethically unacceptable by some communities, but illegal abortions also put the woman at a risk of sepsis and death. This has necessitated the legalization of abortions under certain circumstances. Unfortunately, even legal abortions are not always done under ideally sterile conditions and by well-qualified staff, which still puts the woman at a risk for complications.
Though contraceptive methods are widely and easily available, abortions are very commonly carried out. Statistics indicate that the number of abortions has decreased in the developed countries and is increasing in the developing countries.
Abortion is carried out with medications or surgically depending on the duration of gestation. Medical abortion is usually done with a combination of two drugs - RU-486 or mifepristone that initiates the abortion, and a prostaglandin, which causes the uterus to contract and thereby expel the abortus. Methotrexate is used instead of mifepristone in places where mifepristone is not available. In some cases, a prostaglandin is used alone. Surgical abortion includes procedures like vacuum aspiration and dilatation and curettage.
An early abortion reduces the chances of complications in the mother as compared to an abortion in the later stages of pregnancy. Most abortions are carried out during the first trimester of pregnancy. In a majority of these cases, the pregnancy is unplanned. Later abortions are usually due to conditions like fetal abnormalities and serious illnesses in the mother, which could result in death of the woman during later pregnancy or delivery.
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