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It is a monthly ritual for sexually-active girls. According to your dependable menstrual calendar app, you’re supposed to be well into your period. Even a tinge of a stomach cramp gets you rushing to the bathroom to check if you’ve finally got it. The thought of a possible pregnancy makes you so nauseous that you quickly convince yourself to ignore it and keep busy. It’s also around the same time that your Google search history reads, ‘How can I make my period come faster?’ which is right above, ‘Early signs of pregnancy’.
When you tell the boy that you’re worried, he stutters and stumbles, clearly torn between the need to comfort you and run as fast as he can. Meanwhile, girlfriends reassure you that they’ve been through the scare many times and everything is most-likely okay. They insist that you will definitely get your period and, like every other month, get on with your life. But what do you do when everything doesn’t go as smoothly?
For the women who are ready and excited to have a baby - congratulations! If you’re currently not in a place to conceive - don’t worry, you can take control of the situation. Here’s what you should do, if you’re dealing with a pregnancy scare.
There are small home pregnancy test kits that are available at all common chemist stores and can be used easily. However, it is not a foolproof method and you should consult your doctor if it's positive or even a faint line appears, or if you are not sure whether you have used the test correctly.
The home pregnancy test works by detecting a hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. This hormone appears in a pregnant woman's urine, approximately 20 days after her last period. The levels then rise rapidly, reaching a peak in the next 60 to 80 days. If the test is done too early, there are chances it might be a false negative. So days 21-25 after the end of your last period is about the right time - or about three weeks after the specific sexual encounter you’re worried about.
First things first, take another test, just to be sure. Next, make an appointment with a gynaecologist. Special warning: This is not a situation where anyone other than a certified gynaecologist should be advising you. The opinion of anyone who hasn’t spent years studying in a medical school does not count.
You can go forward with the pregnancy or choose to terminate it. Whether it’s a close cousin, your bestie, your boyfriend, your parents or a certified professional such as a counsellor - ensure that you have some help when you take the next few decisions.
In case you do not have access to a gynaecologist, your family doctor would be able to guide you and even make an early diagnosis. Unlike citizens of many other countries, Indian girls can legally choose to terminate their pregnancy. Depending on your gestational age (that is how many weeks pregnant you are), you will be given options of either pills or a dilatation and evacuation. In case there is a delay in detecting the pregnancy, dilatation/ evacuation is advised - which is a day-long procedure, and is done in the hospital.
Termination of pregnancy is legal provided it is carried out within the legal time limit. It can be done only up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to the MTP Act, a pregnant woman may undergo it under the 20-week ceiling. However, if ‘the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman, or cause grave injury to her physical or mental health, or there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped,’ a woman may terminate the pregnancy after 20 weeks.
The worst decision that can be made is choosing not to get professional help. Do not opt for medication without consulting your doctor. Medicines that are available over the counter have side effects that include haemorrhage, sepsis and perforation. There are several tests and check-ups that precede taking such heavy medication. It requires supervision and control!
Once the pregnancy is terminated medically or operatively, a course of antibiotics is given. Although depending on each patient, usually it does not affect future conception. However, a lot depends on the type of procedure and the expertise of the doctor. The most grievous problem for any girl who even considers termination is dealing with the shame associated with it.
There is no reason you should let the decision bury you with guilt. You should know that you’re not alone. Writer Nora Ephron, actress Joan Collins, singer Anni DiFranco, comedian Chelsea Handler, and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg have all publicly spoken about their personal experiences with the decision. Sadly, there are no Indian names on that list. Hopefully, the day isn’t far when we women decide to speak freely about the experiences that have changed us, without shame or regret. Sharing and acknowledging the feeling of loss and guilt is the first step in creating a healthy supportive zone.
This post has been written with contributions from Dr. Glossy B Sabharwal, MD Radio-diagnosis, Maternal - Fetal Medicine Specialist. She’s the Sr. Consultant - Radiologist at Apollo Spectra Hospitals, Jeewan Mala Hospital (Karol Bagh), WISH (Vasant Vihar) and can be reached at 011-41087024.