The dangers of illegal termination of pregnancy with Nurse Angela Motsusi

Nurse Angela’s Story 

When I was 16 years old, I fell pregnant with my beautiful daughter. At that age I was not prepared to have a baby and felt very confused about what was happening in my life. I was also terrified at what my parents’ reaction would be to my pregnancy and in all honesty the future looked bleak for me. 

I feared not being able to complete my studies and being a failure in life. The advice I was getting in the streets was also not helping. The only way to fix this from the point of view of a 16-year-old me, was to terminate the pregnancy.  I tried the remedies that my peers advised me to take. I was told to drink coke with Asprin. I did that several times and it didn’t help at all. Luckily that’s where I stopped, and my senses soon kicked in. I knew I could suffer severe consequences if I tried anything else and possibly die. I didn’t want to die. 

The reason I didn’t go to the clinic for terminating legally was because my first experience at the clinic was horrible. I went to the clinic to ask for a pregnancy test after missing my periods twice. The nurse that attended to me on the visit was very insensitive to say the least and the effects of her attitude towards me stayed with me for a long time after the visit. I was told that I’m a child myself and asked why I’m having sex. Before I could answer she said that “she would not waste time attending to useless children who are having sex instead of going to school and said in any case the clinic didn’t offer pregnancy testing”. After that encounter I felt so ashamed and very embarrassed and made a promise to myself never to set foot at the clinic again.

My terrible experience has enabled me (a nurse myself) to relate better to young women going through the same thing that I went through years ago, but most importantly enlightened me about the challenges young women go through when trying to access care.

Health risks of an illegal termination

After an unsafe termination, going to illegal (backdoor) places, women may experience a range of health problems that affect their quality of life and well-being. Some women may experience life-threatening complications. Unsafe termination procedures, when performed under unsafe conditions can lead to complications such as:

  • incomplete termination (failure to remove or expel all of the pregnancy tissue from the uterus)
  • haemorrhage (heavy bleeding)
  • infection
  • uterine perforation (caused when the uterus is pierced by a sharp object)
  • Severe or permanent damage to the genital tract and internal organs by inserting dangerous objects such as sticks, knitting needles, or broken glass into the vagina or anus.
  • Severe or permanent damage to the uterus.

Illegal termination and fertility 

Accurate data on complications after an illegal procedure is difficult to obtain because many women do not seek care. Of those who are hospitalized for complications, 7.2 percent have severe trauma. Serious uterine injury, bowel injury and severe infections are common complications of illegal abortion that could affect future fertility by scarring the uterus and/or fallopian tubes. Women who need a hysterectomy to treat the complications of an unsafe abortion will also lose their fertility. It is estimated that 8 percent to 11 percent of maternal deaths worldwide are caused by unsafe abortions. Maternal mortality is obviously also an impediment to future fertility.

Common Causes of Illegal termination of pregnancy in South Africa

  1. Poor availability of services
  2. High cost of the procedure
  3. Stigma attached to termination of pregnancy
  4. Bad attitudes from health care providers

Always remember that terminating pregnancy is a personal choice and its nothing to feel ashamed about. Although illegal termination (backdoor termination) may seem like the easiest option at the time, it is best for your overall health to go through a reputable and accredited health care facility. 

If you have any questions for Nurse Angela, or need a list of youth friendly facilities in or near your community, send me a private message.

If you or a friend need someone to talk to, you can speak to me for advice or help here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).