Unwanted pregnancies in UAE ‘forcing women into irrational choices’

Some women are seeking illegal terminations or abandoning their babies because of unwanted pregnancies.

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ABU DHABI // Unwanted pregnancies are forcing some women to illegally terminate their unborn child or abandon newborn babies.

Deema Sihweil, clinical director and psychologist at the Carbone Clinic in Dubai, said when faced with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, women can make irrational choices out of fear.

“Unfortunately, many women seek medical assistance in an illegal manner to terminate their pregnancies, which can lead to devastating physical, emotional and legal consequences with long-lasting effects,” said Dr Sihweil.

“People really need to be informed of this society’s laws and make responsible choices to safeguard their well-being.

“We have witnessed a number of situations where women have had to make extremely difficult, impulsive and often irrational choices of giving birth to children without medical assistance, out of wedlock and abandoning these babies.”

A study by the World Health Organisation found there are 15 million unwanted pregnancies worldwide each year.

“We know of women who have been victims of sexual assaults who would be too terrified to seek medical assistance and would often have to leave their lives behind and travel to a place where they believe they would be safer,” said Dr Sihweil. “We also know that many committed but unmarried people get pregnant and feel forced to abide by laws and get married.

“People end up making choices that they wouldn’t otherwise make in their home countries, and serious physical and psychological problems can result from these choices.”

Pregnancies, whether planned or not, always affect a woman’s mental health, either in positive or negative ways, said Dr Sihweil.

“To experience very intense emotions of excitement, fear, anxiety, happiness, confusion and hope is a completely normal response when one finds out she’s pregnant.

“If the pregnancy is unplanned or unwanted, these same emotions can still arise at much more intense levels, particularly if she feels that she will not get the emotional and physical support that she needs during this significant event.”

The doctor believes the fact that abortions and morning-after pills are banned in the UAE helps challenge people to think about their behaviours and choices in a more responsible manner.

However, many women are faced with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, she said.

Hence education is critical, she said.

“The earlier we teach young adults about the emotional, physical and legal consequences of pregnancies, the more informed they will be and many medical and mental health problems can be avoided.”

Gynaecologist Dr Yuliya Burmagina said normally news about pregnancy should bring happiness, satisfaction and joy.

“An unwanted pregnancy is quite the opposite and can bring shock, unpleasant surprise, denial, desperation and fear of judgment, just to name a few,” she said.