Being a pregnant 16-year-old teenage girl in a foreign country can be frightening, yet this was my reality 7 years ago. I had recently moved to another country with my family. The fetus that I was carrying was conceived by me and my 19-year-old boyfriend at the time during my previous school holiday, when I had returned to Malaysia. When I figured out I was pregnant due to unprotected sex (we did not use any contraception) I was back with my family and apart from the only person who knew this truth. At this time, I had no in depth knowledge of contraception and never acknowledged its importance. Feeling lonely and afraid, and barely having had any sex education, I confided in a friend from America,  who was more open minded and had better access to sexual education and information. The community I grew up in was strict and religious, influencing my parents to be overprotective with me. Driven by the fear of my family and religious community, I turned to the internet for information, primarily regarding abortions.

Through the internet searches, I concluded that there are three types of abortion pills which are Mifepristone, Misoprostol and Methotrexate. Mifepristone is taken orally as it counters the effect of progesterone, an essential hormone for pregnancy. This pill can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain which was nevertheless treatable with medication. Heavy bleeding may occur in rare cases, during which medical attention should be obtained, as well as a blood transfusion. Misoprostol is the most commonly used in conjunction with Mifepristone to induce a medical abortion. Misoprostol is a prostaglandin-like drug which causes the uterus to contract. It is usually consumed either orally or through the vagina. The last drug found was Methotrexate yet it is used less often since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Mifepristone. Methotrexate may, however, be used in women who are allergic to mifepristone or when it is unavailable. It should not be used for gestational ages greater than 49 days. Methotrexate is likely to be injected into the muscles. Between 68% and 81% of pregnancies abort within 2 weeks; 89% to 91% abort within 45 days. Methotrexate is the drug most commonly used for the treatment of ectopic pregnancies implanted outside the womb. It kills the fast-growing tissue of ectopic pregnancy. When Methotrexate is used by doctors to treat ectopic pregnancy, pregnancy hormone levels must be monitored until levels are undetectable in the bloodstream. Methotrexate is a chemotherapy agent and immune system suppressant and should only be used for abortions if there are no other viable options. Strict supervision and monitoring is of utmost importance as indiscriminate use of this drug has caused death due to reactions.

Despite gaining all this useful information via the internet, I was still facing difficulty in obtaining these pills in the country in which I was a resident. 

During the last few weeks of the school semester that year, I experienced obvious and intense symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea (morning sickness), extreme lack of energy (constantly falling asleep) and the fact that my menstrual cycle was irregular which was personally strange. I was called into the counselor’s office privately one morning and was asked if I was pregnant. At this moment, the feeling of fear and terror was overwhelming me due to experiences undergone in previous public schools in Malaysia. I was traumatized and did not want to admit my problems to any adult authority figure. In spite of this, she comforted and eased me into expressing the truth. She continued to question me to confirm if I was indeed pregnant as  I had never used a pregnancy test prior. Once I explained my symptoms, she proceeded to hug me while whispering in my ears, “sounds like you are pregnant sweetie”. For a moment, the fear I felt was eased as I finally found someone who provided me with comfort and made me feel safe for the first time in this pregnancy. From that day onwards, every morning, once I arrived at school, I headed down to the counselor’s office to rest. As days passed, I spent most of my time resting and trying to adapt to the constant nausea I was feeling. I also was pretending to be normal in front of my parents. 

One day, the counselor suggested I take a pregnancy test and no surprise, it turned out positive. That day, we listed down options such as keeping the baby, giving away the baby or having an abortion. However, I knew that the decision was already made; I had to undergo an abortion and this was not up for discussion. I feared being disowned by my family due to the high expectations put onto me as the only daughter. 

The counselor was very understanding and she never questioned nor tried to manipulate my decision. She asked for my permission to share this information with a colleague who had more knowledge on non-profit organizations which help with teenage pregnancies and abortions. When contacted, the organization explained that they do provide Mifepristone and Misoprostol and would be willing to help. Yet, my parents’ overprotectiveness made it impossible for me to have a physical meeting with them. As i explained my situation to her, guided by my counselor, she finally agreed to send the pills via post with guidance on how to consume them. 

When I took the pills, I had to rest more while blood flowed from my vagina. For a moment I felt joyful and relieved as this pregnancy was perceived as a problem to me throughout the experience. My initial thought was that the fetus will abort immediately out as a clump but to my surprise, days later it was clear that the fetus has taken its form. During this time, I had accompanied my parents to a city outside the area where I resided. Whilst there, sharing a hotel room with my parents, I started feeling intense pain early one morning in the uterus area. I rushed to the toilet believing it was merely a terrible stomach ache. However, to my surprise it was quite the opposite as a burst of transparent liquid discharged from my vagina. Confused, I peaked down into the toilet and saw the fetus dangling from my vagina while still attached to the umbilical cord. A feeling of intense fear creeped upon me at the thought of my parents outside the door. Without hesitating, I looked away while grabbing tissue and proceeded to attempt to pull the fetus off by the umbilical cord. As a 16-year-old girl, I had no option to provide the fetus a proper burial. I flushed it down without a glimpse at it as it was extremely traumatizing. I lost all feelings of love towards my boyfriend at the time instantly without any strong reasoning. My family has never known about the existence of the fetus inside me.

During the pregnancy, I was always fearful and distressed because I had to hide my pregnancy from the family I lived with while having obvious symptoms. The thought of being disowned with no financial stability to support the baby or myself (if I chose to keep it) was always on my mind. Looking back now, I wish I had had more access to sexual education. I realized that not everyone has support through a process which could have led me to an unsafe abortion, abandoning my newborn baby or even death. Now, years later, the rise in awareness of sexual education allowed me to gain confidence. I am now able to comfortably share my experiences and relate to the many individuals out there who face similar experiences. I hope that by sharing my story, I can help someone else feel less alone. We never know when we might find ourselves in a position we never even thought we would be in. We have to provide better support systems to young girls simply because it is the right thing to do. 

Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

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