A drug initially intended to save the lives of mothers by preventing blood loss during child birth is now being abused to procure abortions.
The drug, Misoprostol or Cytotec, taken together with aspirin, is intended to prevent the formation of ulcers in the stomach. This way, it is meant to offer protection to tens of thousands of women who lose their lives due to blood loss during child birth.
But the drug that retails at Sh150 a pill in various chemists is now being abused by those seeking home abortions.
While the drug is not sold over the counter in various reputable pharmacies in Nairobi’s Central Business District, a spot check by The Standard revealed that it was being sold over the counter in chemists on River Road.
“We only sell this drug when you have a prescription from a gynaecologist,” said a pharmacist at Savannah.
According to statistics from USAID, postpartum haemorrhage – bleeding after delivery – is one of the top five causes of maternal deaths in Kenya and it is for this reason that Misoprostol use was expanded to include gynaecological purposes.
One user confessed on social media how she learnt all she needed to procure abortion after finding a chemist’s shop on River Road that sold her the drug.
“I found out that if I took the drug for a pregnancy that is under 12 weeks or 84 days, there was 90 per cent success rate and since I was not ready for a child, I rushed to get one,” she says.
The youngster says she bought the combination of misoprostol and mifeprex drugs on a day she was sure that her hostel room-mate would be away and took it just as recommended on the websites she had looked up.
“I learnt that it would cause contractions in the womb and expel the pregnancy and the side effects would be cramps, bleeding and nausea. However, no one can describe the pain I went through when I took the drug,” she says.
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After rolling on the floor for hours on end, she says she started bleeding profusely and when she could not handle the pain, she called one of her close friends to help.
Although she does not recall anything else after that, she says that when she woke up she was in a hospital bed and doctors told her she had lost so much blood.
“I knew they had no way of establishing that this was intentional but I came clean with them because I feared I was going to die,” she says.
She found out that she had accrued a hefty hospital bill since they had cleaned her womb and there was nothing to do but to call her parents to help, yet the reason she went that route was to keep the pregnancy a secret.