What the law says
It is important to be aware of the laws governing abortion in a country before deciding to have one. These laws vary from country to country and have different limits.
In some countries, you can’t have an abortion until you are 12 weeks pregnant or even more. In other countries, you can only have an abortion, for example, if you have been raped, have physical or mental problems, can’t look after the baby or in a situation where such person has a reproductive problem.
Nigerian abortion law
At the moment, abortion in Nigeria is illegal. However, there’s an exception when it is important to save the life of the mother. Although, a lot of unsafe abortions still happen in Nigeria, according to a report by Guttmacher Institute. In 2012, 1.25 million abortions took place in Nigeria. This could be linked to the fact that abortions are inaccessible even when women meet the requirements.
The Criminal Code (Southern States) allows abortion for physical and mental health reasons. According to the code, you could face 14 years in prison if you provide or perform an abortion. Consenting to abortion, on the other hand attracts 7 years imprisonment and supplying anything to aid miscarriage could be punished with three years in prison.
The Northern States Penal Code has some similarities with the Southern States, except that it states harsher punishments, especially when it results in death of the woman.
Types of abortion: medical and surgical
In Nigeria, a good number of women do not know the abortion options available to them when they meet the requirements. Others are concerned about how secretive the public health centres are. More than 3,000 women die annually in Nigeria as a result of unsafe abortion. These numbers add to the reason why the mortality rate in Nigeria - 1,100 deaths per 100,000 live births—is one the world’s highest.
It is important to have safe abortion and talk to a certified practitioner to avoid complications during abortion.
There are two types of safe abortion available to women depending on how many weeks pregnant you are:
Medical abortion allows you take pills to stops the pregnancy by blocking the hormone that keeps you pregnant. The pills are administered depending on how long the woman has been pregnant.
Early medical abortion (up to week nine of pregnancy)
Mifepristone and Misoprostol are pills needed for early medical abortion. They can be used at home or at your doctor’s office; 36 - 48 hours apart. You can take 200mg of Mifepristone at the clinic or doctor’s office and the other pill at home.
The first pill stops the fertilised egg from settling in the womb, while Misoprostol pushes it out. The pregnancy leaves your body 4 - 6 hours after usin the second pill. You may experience some bleeding, cramping or sickness but most times it is painless. Because at this stage, the embryo is still so small in size, you may not notice it among the blood clots.
Go to the nearest hospital if the pain or bleeding becomes severe or persist.
Safe early medical abortions at home?
You can also have an abortion at home, however, it is recommended that you do not do this alone. Although it is safe, it is illegal in Nigeria at the moment. If complications arise, you need to get to the hospital in an hour. You can tell the doctor you had a miscarriage - he won’t know it was an abortion. Medical abortions with just Mifepristone should not be done if you have been pregnant for more than 12 weeks. It is safer to use both Mifepristone and Misoprostol, as the success rate is higher and stands at 96 per cent.
For more information, visit Women on Web, where you can also get advice on how a safe medical abortion works. Regardless of where you live and the local laws, you can still get pills for a medical abortion from Women on Waves or sometimes the chemist. You can also get in touch with Women Help Women.
Also, medical abortions with just Mifepristone should not be done if you have been pregnant for more than 12 weeks.
Late medical abortion (from week nine of pregnancy)
Even though medical abortion can still be done for pregnancies longer than nine weeks, it shouldn’t be done at home. In this instance, you have to take more than one dose of Misoprostol; taken over a period of short times. It takes a little longer. Sometimes you may have to visit the hospital to have the placenta surgically removed after using the pills.
Late medical abortions work when you are not more than 24 week pregnant. Even at that, you still have to stay overnight at a hospital if the pregnancy has exceeded 20 weeks. How does late medical abortion work?
Prostaglandin is injected into the womb, creating contractions similar to labour lasting 6 – 12 hours. This happens while you’re awake, but doctors can give you pain relief. Dilation and curettage may be used afterwards to ensure the womb is empty.
For surgical abortion, you will be operated upon. There are two main types, depending on how many weeks pregnancy you are carrying:
- Vacuum aspiration
- Dilation and curettage
These operations are done when you’re sleeping. You will be injected with a general anaesthetic or a local one to make your cervix numb and make the process painless while you are awake. It is normal to feel sick or faint after a surgical abortion.
Vacuum aspiration (up to week 15 of pregnancy)
This procedure involves the use of a tube to suck out the foetus from the womb within minutes. It takes within 3 to 10 minutes to complete this procedure. Few hours before this procedure, the cervix will be widened and may be softened. Although some bleeding may occur for up to 21 days after the operation, you will be allowed to o home the same day. Heavy bleeding occur on the first day to three days and may not last more than ten days.
Dilation and curettage (D&C)
This method is recommended as a safer option by the World Health Organization (WHO). The cervix is dilated and the foetus and placenta are scrapped put of the womb. It should only be performed by a skilled doctor.
Late surgical abortion
This can happen after 24 weeks of pregnancy and is quite complicated. This needs to be discussed with and performed by a medical professional.
Most women feel relieved after an abortion, which is not a bad thing. You made the best decision under the circumstances. 42 million women have abortions every year.
Some other women usually feel sad after an abortion. It could be due to the change in hormones or just the decision you had to make. Either ways, it is advisable to speak to a professional or friend who can support you.
After an abortion, your hormones are returning to the way they were before your pregnancy, which may also leave you feeling sad. Or maybe you feel sad because the man who got you pregnant didn’t want to have the child with you. The abortion might reopen old wounds; and like most wounds, they need time to heal.
You can get pregnant after a safe abortion, so you don’t have to worry.
In very rare cases, women fall into depression after making a choice on ending an unintended pregnancy. Depression is serious, and if you think you are depressed or know someone who may be, you might consider talking to a professional about it.