Young mothers terminate pregnancies, risking their lives

By Thuy Quynh   December 6, 2019 | 04:33 pm PT
Young mothers terminate pregnancies, risking their lives
To beat or not to beat. Photo by Shutterstock/Aziz Karimov.
Seeing the two lines on the pregnancy test stick, Van was shocked to find the results positive.

The last time Van had sex was three weeks ago. Instead of using condoms, the 18-year-old Hanoian took birth control pills the next morning.

Muttering, shaking and trembling, the young woman at first hesitated to call her boyfriend, eventually giving up.

A year younger than Van, 17-year-old Dung northern Yen Bai Province failed to contact the man she met and had sex with. He had simply vanished. "If my parents know I’m pregnant, they would kick me out of the house," said Dung.

Having sex, getting pregnant unintentionally and struggling with an uncertain future, Van and Dung are two among thousands of women resorting to abortion across Vietnam.

Central Maternity Hospital in Hanoi, a leading medical institution, handles approximately 5,000 abortion cases annually, with around 20 percent of clients adolescents.

Vietnam ranks top in Asia and among the top five worldwide in abortion rate, according to official health reports, which recorded 275,000 abortions in the country in 2015.

"Many children become mothers at the age of 10, with several 15-year-old’s aborting more than once," explained doctor Vu Ngan Ha.

There are a host of reasons causing young women to terminate pregnancies, most commonly the lack of sexual education and undisciplined lifestyles.

"I don't know how my boyfriend would react when he finds I’m pregnant," said Van, who only recently started university and fell in love.

Mustering courage, Van eventually reached her boyfriend who simply told her to visit a hospital and "deal with the issue" unless she wanted to become a single mother. "If I kept the baby, I would have had to cease my studies, causing my parents a lot of grief. I could not bear it."

Even if Van and her boyfriend did get married, they could not afford to bring up the child.

With no choice, they borrowed money and visited hospital two days later. "It was the first time. I will never forget it."

At less than 18, wombs are not fully developed; abortion may lead to damage, excessive bleeding, and other life-threatening consequences, Ha said. In Vietnam, the infertility rate is 20-25 percent.

Dung nearly lost her life. With the man responsible for her pregnancy having disappeared, she swallowed abortion pills bought at a local pharmacy.

She was rushed to hospital after her panicked parents found her bleeding and passed out in the washroom.

The doctor said the fetus was too big to interfere with, and that the 17-year-old had to have her uterus removed, which would inhibit future pregnancies.

Currently, 83 percent of teenagers do not use contraception when having sex, often hiding their pregnancies till it is too late. When doctors are called on to terminate the pregnancy, the patient’s womb suffers severe side effects.

Doctors recommend young people become better aware of reproductive health while families better educate their youngsters to avoid disastrous incidents.

Van believes she is lucky. After surviving abortion and learning more about contraceptive methods, she has high hopes for a safer future in which she might well have another chance at motherhood.

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