With six children Amena Khatun is already a mother-in-law. She has been in pain and shame since she discovered that she is pregnant again. She is upset and tries to keep it a secret and deal with her plight on her own.
She goes to a "dai" or midwife who gives her roots, weeds and leaves which she calls herbal medicines. The herbal treatment does not help the 39-year-old woman. She falls sick and dies.
Consider the plight of Minu, a 27-year-old woman from Patuakhali. Minu (not her real name) eloped with her lover when she was a student of Class IX and married him secretly. Her husband, a tailor, read up to class V. Both Minu and her husband have a wrong idea about contraceptives.
They think the use of birth control methods will make the wife permanently infertile. But the couple still wants to delay the first child. So when Minu conceives in a few weeks she and her husband seek help from a kabiraj who gives her some pills. The drugs cause terrible pain in Minu's abdomen and causes bleeding, a miscarriage. Minu survives, but with a bit of luck and treatment by a doctor. She has yet to conceive for the second time. She has also kept the news of her miscarriage a secret. So, she does not go to a doctor to deal with her problem.
Even though Minu has survived, many Bangladeshi women like Amena die due to unsafe abortion and miscarriage caused by wrong medicines. This is a worldwide problem too. It is estimated that 13 per cent of the world's maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortion.
A 1994 UN report says 40 women worldwide become victims of unsafe abortion every minute. Many women survive with complications caused by such abortion. When an embryo is destroyed before it completes 28 weeks after conception then it is called abortion. And when the destruction occurs without human intervention then it is called miscarriage, says Dr. Maliha Rashid, associate professor at Dhaka Mdical College Hospital's Gynaecology and Obstetrics Department.
Various methods are used for abortion, including vacuum aspiration. But unqualified people use hormone-like drugs to cause the abortion, which often turns deadly.
Experts say poor rural women suffer more complications in abortion than those living in urban areas. Urban women have better access to doctors than the rural women. Most women fail to take follow-up services after abortion or Menstruation Regulation or MR. Inability to pay for treatment or living far from the service centres prevent many poor women from getting proper treatment. So, they go to quacks.
Septic abortion is a major problem in Bangladesh and according to Bangladesh Association for Prevention of Septic Abortion (BAPSA) 26 per cent of maternal deaths in Bangladesh are caused by septic abortion.
In Bangladesh, up to 800,000 women either go for MR or abortion every year -about one-eighth of them suffer various complications which arise from unsafe abortions. Another report says 33 per cent of pregnancies in Bangladesh are unplanned. Those who conceive against their will usually go for abortion and they do riot hesitate to take risks.
A doctor, who deals with abortion, says his patients include women who do not plan their pregnancies and thus want to get rid of it. Sex outside marriage or before marriage is growing among the youths. Those who conceive from such coitus want abortion and brave risks.
Married women who seek abortion cite many reasons for it: to keep the family small and inability to support a big family. Career women also want fewer children.
Whatever are the reasons the women going for it must have better knowledge about it and go for safe abortion.