In the hands of many people, the word abortion is limited to the artificial termination of pregnancy, whether carried out legally by a doctor when it is known as a therapeutic abortion, or illegal – the so called back street abortion.
To doctors, however, the word simply means the expulsion or removal of a fetus before the 28th week of pregnancy. There is no medical distinction between an artificial abortion, legal or illegal, and a spontaneous abortion. However, there are different types of abortion that include:
Also commonly termed as miscarriage, there are no precise numbers for pregnancies that fail, but medical research has shown that probably about one-third of all pregnancies abort spontaneously within four weeks of conception. In many cases the woman never knows that she has been pregnant, for the abortion occurs about four weeks after her last menstrual period and so passes unrecognized.
In other cases abortion may occur in a week or so later and she just thinks that she has a late period. Spontaneous abortion may be nature’s way of terminating a pregnancy that is in some way likely to be unsatisfactory.
Some women experience a slight loss of blood during the first three months of pregnancy, which is not necessarily related to any abnormality. Spotting may occur during the times when periods should normally be due. Such a loss has, however, to be treated as a possible abortion until proved otherwise.
If the embryo is expelled but the placenta membranes are left inside the uterus, the acute bleeding may well stop for a time. However, if bleeding starts again some days or even weeks later, the remains in the uterus must be removed to give her a better chance of starting another pregnancy.
Although spontaneous abortion is common, if a woman miscarries three times in a row, her condition is known as habitual. In such cases gynecological assistance is recommended to treat the condition.
In many countries, a pregnancy can legally be terminated in its early stages if doctors advise that its continuation would seriously affect the health of the mother.