MEDICAL CARE: TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY
An enormous number of pregnancies never reach full term. For a large variety of reasons, they end prematurely. When this takes place before the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy, it is termed an abortion.
Many people prefer to use the more euphemistic term ' 'miscarriage," for abortion in some minds conjures up criminal acts or acts of an illegal nature. These of course play only a small part in the total picture, and they appear to be decreasing with variations in laws around the world.
When pregnancy reaches the age of twenty-eight weeks, it is legally considered to be "viable" or alive, even though a baby born at this age would be hard pressed to survive normally.
The figures for naturally occurring abortions or miscarriages vary considerably. Some experts claim that about 10 per cent of all normal pregnancies end in this manner. Others claim the figure is more like one in four, or 25 per cent. However, more recent work in the United Kingdom now claims that as many as 70 or even 80 per cent of all pregnancies terminate prematurely by natural events.
These latter claims are based on careful studies of many thousands of cases. Many now believe that an abortion is merely nature's way of maintaining a healthy line in the human race. Now genetic studies and chromosomal patterns can be studied in more detail than ever before with newer techniques, it seems that the overwhelming majority of abortions are really the result of genetic deformities. Therefore, nature has shed them early in pregnancy to avert the multitude of hazards to which a genetically affected human is subjected throughout life.
By methods not clearly understood, a genetically deformed embryo has greater difficulty in being accepted by the lining of the womb. Certain natural influences, it appears, act against it. The result is a rapid shedding very early in pregnancy. Indeed, most women are completely unaware that pregnancy had taken place, and less aware that a miscarriage in fact has occurred.
Often this is reflected in a "late menstrual period." When it does arrive, it may be heavier than normal, or there may be a few clots. It may be completely pain-free, or there may be a little more discomfort than usual. But this is invariably accepted as part of the lot of the female and little fuss or bother is made of the unrecognized event.
Other instances, of course, last longer. Nearly three-quarters of recognized abortions take place between the sixth and tenth week of pregnancy. Definite reasons are hard to come by. Some claim that there is a temporary reduction in production of the hormone called progesterone at this time. This could be responsible for the embryo becoming dislodged from its position in the uterine wall and being swept away.
It seems that some abortions may be generated by infections and fevers in the mother at the time implantation is occurring. Perhaps viruses in her system pass over the placental barriers and gain access to the embryo, producing damage that results in its prompt release.
Some experts believe that psychosomatic causes play a part. The nervous system and brain are highly complex structures. It seems that through the complicated neural networks they may cause the generation of hormones that also predispose to premature release of the embryo from the uterine wall.
Sometimes the male partner may be responsible. Fifty per cent of the chromosomes and genes of the fertilized ovum are from his spermatozoa. Therefore, when union occurs, if defects are present consistently in his contributing half, then this could regularly predispose to miscarriage. Cases are on record where a woman sustaining multiple (or habitual) abortions remarried, and the pregnancies occurring with the new partner proceeded uninterrupted to full term and the birth of a normal, healthy baby.