Terminating Pregnancy at later Stages of Pregnancy

Terminating pregnancy at later stage is a procedure fraught with many complications and risks. 20 weeks of pregnancy is termed as a late stage for abortion. Some consider 24 weeks of pregnancy as the late stage.  

A woman in the late stage of pregnancy can generally have the abortion procedure as an outpatient. Late term abortions are not considered legal, except when the pregnancy poses severe health risk or fatality for the woman or the fetus. The signed consent of two qualified doctors is necessary before a late abortion procedure. The doctors have to endorse the fact that continuing the pregnancy would lead to health risks for either the fetus or the pregnant woman.  
Terminating pregnancy at later stages – Reasons
  • Non regular periods and consequent error in calculating the age of the fetus
  • Possibility that woman is unaware of the high risk involved in terminating pregnancy at later stages
  • Health risk becoming evident, either for the woman or the fetus, only at the later stage, if pregnancy is continued
  • Initial hesitation (maybe due to stress caused by unwanted pregnancy) and later decision on abortion
  • Inability to access medical care services during early pregnancy
  • The woman does not share the problem with partner, friends or parents and does not seek advice
  • Abortion is stalled in the hope that the partner would support the birth of the child
Types of procedure
  • The type of procedure adopted to terminate a pregnancy at later stage depends on the gestation period of the fetus. The three methods are
  • Dilation and evacuation (D & E). This procedure is adopted for aborting a pregnancy of the third trimester. The procedure lasts for a maximum of 20 minutes. For a healthy patient there are hardly any complications. Bleeding may continue for two weeks. 
  • Premature induction of labor: This is a painful surgery and hardly in practice today. 
  • Intact dilation and extraction (D & X): Performed in the third trimester, this procedure is a rarity on recent times. It is usually a 48-hour process. The procedure is also termed as partial birth abortion 
Risks involved
  • It is not a non-invasive procedure and so is potentially risky
  • Sedation procedures and types of anesthesia administered may also cause discomfort and complications
  • Painful cramps may be a complication after the procedure
  • Bleeding complications are common, sometimes needing a surgical procedure for treatment and cure 
Precautions taken before procedure
  • An ultra-sound scan is done on the patient to confirm the pregnancy and assess the accurate gestation period of the fetus
  • The woman is counseled in order to make her aware of the risks involved in late pregnancy termination
  • Reaction to anesthesia is also determined
  • A urine analysis, and blood tests for group test and hemoglobin are conducted 
In the US, the Supreme Court’s verdict on late abortions allows the states to lay down stringent and severe laws to discourage late abortions. Most states disallow late abortions except when the woman’s life or health is at a severe risk.  
Late abortions are unfortunate as they pose a threat to the well being of a woman besides putting her life in danger. If abortion is opted for only after the fetus is 20 to 24 weeks old then it is termed as late abortion. There are several reasons for late abortions including lack of awareness. The US Supreme Court allows states to lay down severe laws to bring down late abortions, except when the life of the woman (or her health) is in grave danger if pregnancy is continued.

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