Incomplete abortion by untrained quacks and abortifacient drugs have lead to a large number of maternal deaths in the state, said the officials. As per the data with state health department on maternal mortality ratio, the second largest contributor to maternal deaths after anaemic deaths is antenatal (before delivery; during or relating to pregnancy) deaths. While low haemoglobin during pregnancy is due to 25.4 per cent of the total maternal deaths, more than 23 per cent of pregnant women die while trying to abort pregnancies by using over-the-counter abortion drugs.
Use of abortifacient drugs that are used for abortion, can lead to sepsis, which is a serious uterine infection during or shortly before or after an abortion. These infections can cause excessive bleeding and death. Induced abortions done by untrained practitioners using nonsterile techniques can also result in similar deaths, said officials.
“There has been an increase in the number of maternal deaths due to sepsis followed by misuse of abortifacient drugs. As the sale of these drugs over-the-counter has become common, the prevalence of sepsis cases because of it too has increased. Even if a woman consults a doctor for termination of pregnancy, they do not follow up to wait for the appropriate time to start the abortion process. And once they have the prescription for the drug, they use the prescription again in future and sometimes, even pass it on to friends,” said Dr Vidyamoorthy, a senior consultant of obstetrics and gynaecology and foetal medicine in Birthright, Rainbow Children’s Hospital.
She added that these drugs should not be made available in pharmacies and should be used as controlled drugs in hospitals. When used as a controlled drug, these can be accessed only by the senior hospital staff to be used by a patient after discussion with consultants, said Dr Vidyamoorthy.
Officials from state health department said that they are promoting postpartum intrauterine device -- a copper intrauterine device inserted within 48 hours of delivery -- up to primary health centre (PHC) level to help prevent women from conceiving. “Manual vacuum aspiration services and injectable contraceptives is being upgraded up to block PHCs in the supervision of PHC doctors. Healthcare staff are being engaged in rural areas and sub-urban areas for door-to-door distribution of these contraceptives. Untrained quacks are being identified and action is being taken against them if they are involved in induced abortions,” said Dr K Kolandaisamy, Director of public health.