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Contraception Failures May Lead to Late-Term Abortions

An unplanned pregnancy due to ineffective contraception discovered in its second trimester may be a compelling reason for a female to seek an abortion. Teens and women in such a situation shared their stories.

The stories of 28 Scottish, English and Welsh females with pregnancies between 20 and up to 24 weeks are fraught with emotional anxiety over making what is a heartbreaking and deeply personal decision. The participants agreed to share their situations with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) for its Issue 1, published in July 2017.

The organization is a registered charity that is regulated by the British Care Quality Commission; it is a place women can turn to when needing an abortion. In the findings obtained between July and October 2015, the BPAS outlined reasons its patients sought to terminate a pregnancy.

Nearly 61% of the women — 17 of the 28 — consulting with BPAS workers were unaware they were pregnant until very shortly before the first meeting.

Citing respective case complexities, the main reasons for wanting a procedure after 20 week’s gestation emerged. They include:

  • Pregnancy unawareness, despite contraceptive use – the main reason;
  • Irregular menstrual cycles yielding fertility questions;
  • Breastfeeding;
  • Pregnancy at too-young an age;
  • Domestic-violence situations;
  • Existing children, and
  • Living in a crisis situation.

Statistics show that commonly used contraceptives – the pill, the intrauterine device (IUD), condoms and hormonal injections – failed to prevent a pregnancy. In fact, nine of 100 women taking the pill, six of 100 using a contraceptive injection, and one in 100 using an IUD will become pregnant annually.

For a host of physiological reasons, irregular periods caused a pregnancy surprise in nearly 36% of the women and hence became a factor in requesting a late-term abortion. And breastfeeding also is not a fail-safe pregnancy-prevention method unless carried out observing strict criteria, some others discovered.

The very young in this study – girls aged 15, 16, 17 and 18 years – all said they were too young to become a responsible parent and wanted to earn an education.

And in the latter three categories, each woman – who may have even been using contraception methods – described difficult life situation involving, for example, physical abuse to themselves and/or their children; a too-many-children syndrome coupled with financial difficulties or homelessness or coping with serious illnesses.

This rare documentation of why teens and women seek late-term abortions is a study strength. The researchers stated little such information heretofore had been registered.  The study’s only weakness is that the results may not be generalizable to other areas of the world.

Regardless of the individuals’ situations, a decision to terminate a late-term and unwanted pregnancy provokes wrenching emotional responses for all involved.  An increased understanding of the reasons for requesting a late-term abortion will help health care professionals to provide appropriate support.

Written by Susan Mercer Hinrichs, MA, MBA, CPhT


Reference: “But I was Using Contraception …” Why Women Present for Abortions after 20 Weeks

Authors: No specific author(s) within the British Pregnancy Advisory Service is cited.



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