Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One week later: Abortion aftercare and follow ups

It has been a little over a week since I had the procedure. I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable about the body, but there are many things I didn't know regarding abortion aftercare that I thought I would share with you.

I mentioned in my first post that I became pregnant while on birth control. It also happened while I was on vacation. I didn't miss a pill, I took them in the mornings as usual, nothing out of the ordinary happened to make me think "OK, I understand why this happened." I have always trusted birth control 100% but apparently, even if taken as intended, you can only trust it 99%. The doctor was amazed that I became pregnant while taking birth control, and assured me that it was extremely rare. "Well," I said, "It happened once, can it happen again?" I was not able to get a straight answer. On one hand, what are the odds that something so unlikely would happen AGAIN? On the other, what if there is something about my body, my response to birth control, my boyfriend that makes it that much more likely that it will happen again. Anyhow, the questions are endless.

I had my follow up appointment on Saturday. When the procedure was performed, the doctor had the specimen analyzed to make sure the placenta was intact (if it isn't, they have to go back in and look for it). Luckily, everything was removed successfully. The doctor did another quick ultrasound and confirmed that everything was healing properly, and I was sent on my way.

Now, on to the aftercare:

1. No sex and no use of tampons for 2 weeks after the procedure. The cervix remains dilated for about 2 weeks after the procedure, so women would be much more likely to contract an infection.
2. About 3-4 weeks after the abortion, women can be hyper fertile, meaning it is possible to get pregnant again shortly following an abortion. Be careful and use condoms. Even if you are on birth control, remember that it doesn't always work (that's how I ended up in this predicament).
3. Your hormones will go crazy! Mine have always been relatively stable, but I honestly felt like I got a glimpse into what it's like to have Bipolar Disorder. I found myself acting extra needy (not at all in my personality), and being overly sensitive. Be prepared and remember that you have just gone through something intense, both physically and emotionally. Give yourself time to heal.
4. Limit your exercise. The muscles in your uterus are contracting to bring it back down to its normal size so you will feel some cramping. Don't overdo it on the workouts in the meantime!

I have since looked into getting the Mirena IUD. IUDs are considered to be the safest and most recommended birth controls for couples in a monogamous relationship (which I am). Without insurance, it costs about 350,000 won in Korea, which isn't cheap but when you consider the long term cost of birth control (and in my case the 500,000 spent on an abortion) it seems quite worth it. With insurance, You may be able to get it for less than 150,000! What a deal! And they're good for 5 years. The downside is it makes you more prone to infection because the IUD can act as an irritant, so women who might contract an STD should stay away from this method. There is also the copper IUD, which doesn't release hormones but is just as effective at preventing pregnancy as the hormone IUD. The major plus side is that an IUD removes all possibilities of human error (forgetting a pill, taking a pill too late, etc).

Following an abortion, you should wait until after your next period to get an IUD if you so choose.

I think that's all I have for now. Hope this helps.

Friday, September 16, 2011

An abortion in Korea

I'm a female teacher in South Korea. As many of you know, it can be a bit difficult to navigate the medical system in Korea without speaking the language. That is the main purpose of this blog: to provide women in Korea with information on obtaining an abortion in Korea

So, where to begin? Earlier this week I suspected that I might be pregnant. After stressing about it for a few days, I sent my boyfriend out to buy a pregnancy test. Ladies, if you plan on buying your own kit, I suggest leaving your immediate area just in case someone from your school recognizes you, or worse, that the pharmacist is a parent of one of your kids. People gossip, no reason to give them ammunition. Anyhow, "pregnancy test" in Korean is "임신테스트 ." Just write it down and show it to the pharmacist. I suggest getting 2 just in case one is faulty. Be sure to ask the pharmacist how to read the results. Generally, 1 line means negative, 2 lines means positive, and no lines means the test did not work. 

I brought the test home, and did it, only to find 2 blank screens--faulty. I waited several minutes and checked it again, this time finding 2 lines--positive. I immediately broke down and cried. Shortly thereafter I took test #2, which immediately gave me a positive result, cementing what I had feared for the last week.

I began to research abortions in Korea, using various combinations of keywords, including abortions + Korea + foreigner, and a variety of others. Sadly, very little information was available. Most of the results were newspaper archives in which the legality of abortions was discussed. Abortions are technically illegal in Korea, although they are performed routinely and in large numbers. The Korea Federation for HIV/AIDS Prevention stated that more than 1 out of 4 sexually active females in high school have had an abortion. I have also read that women abort fetuses for a variety of reasons including sex of the child (with male being preferred over female), readiness to care for a baby, and unwillingness to stop taking diet pills while pregnant.

I did manage to find some useful information, which I will include at the end of this post. A friend of mine recommended Bundang Cheil Women’s Hospital, near Seohyeon station on the yellow subway line. I decided to call them, and after asking for an English speaker, I was put on the line with a doctor. After explaining to him that I needed an abortion, he asked if I was a Christian, and immediately followed that with “What kind of Christian are you?” Scared and terrified, I hung up and sobbed. I was sure that this was the attitude I would encounter with any place I tried. Thoughts of fleeing the country to get an abortion in America crossed my mind; the thought of having to carry the child crippled me with fear.

I continued searching, and found Hosan Women’s Hospital. My boyfriend called, was put on the line with an English speaker, and was told that abortions are performed and we should come the next day at 9:30 in the morning. I felt relieved to know that I had found a place, and a new fear came over me: how much will this whole thing cost? Because abortions are illegal in Korea, doctors face up to 2 years in jail and losing their license if they are found to be performing them, so they are taking a huge risk in providing the service. I was prepared to pay as much as 2 million won.

The next morning I decided not to eat or drink anything in case the procedure could be done the same day. Then, we headed to Hosan Hospital (directions and all necessary information will be at the end). When we arrived, we asked for an English speaker, and were brought into the office of Dr. Park, who spoke English as though he was a native speaker. I was immediately relieved. He explained to me that the procedure could only be performed if the fertilized egg has moved into the uterus, and he would have to check to see if that was the case. He performed an ultrasound, confirming that I was, indeed pregnant (about 5 weeks along) and that the procedure could be done that day.

I was ready to cry with joy. Not only was the doctor an excellent English speaker, but I felt safe in his care. He said I would be “lightly knocked out” but not fully anesthetized, and that the procedure would only take 5 minutes. I was moved to a room, given a gown, and told to come to the operating room. After lying down, I was given an IV of fluids, strapped to a heart monitor, and given oxygen. When the doctor came in, the “knock out drug” was administered and I was out. When I awoke, I heard my boyfriend in the hall asking if I was OK. I answered, “I’m fine, they haven’t even done the procedure yet.” It turns out, they were finished and I didn’t feel a thing. The doctor had gone into the waiting room to inform my boyfriend that everything went smoothly, and to give him a hug. The nurse helped me get dressed and walked me into the recovery room, where I would have to stay hooked up to an IV for an hour before I could be released.  The pain began to set in, feeling like intense cramps. The doctor came to visit me, told me everything was fine and he’d like to see me back in a week for a follow up. I was given medicine and stayed in the bed for one hour. Here’s the tough part: it cost 500,000 won! I guess it could have been worse.

I was amazed and how smoothly and quickly things went after I was able to find a hospital that performs this procedure. So, that’s my story. The procedure was completed several hours ago and I feel OK and at peace with my decision. I decided to write this blog so other women in Korea don’t have to go through the agony of finding help.

Here are all the necessary details:

  1. Before your procedure, do not drink or eat anything after midnight the previous morning. They will not perform the procedure if you had.
  2. I will only list one abortion provider in the Seoul area, because I believe he is worth the travel time, not to mention this is the only place I have personal experience with. The doctor here genuinely cares and is able to communicate freely, which I find to be very important.

Hosan Women’s Hospital
Tel.:02) 546-3674            02) 546-3674      
Address: 617-5 Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Apgujeong Stn.  Exit 2

Walk out exit 2 and turn around (don’t walk straight, walk in the opposite direction and turn right). Keep walking until the first major intersection with a light, and turn right again. It will be on your right hand side. Take the elevator to the 2nd floor and ask a receptionist for the following doctor:

The doctor told me to have possible patients contact him directly, but I'm nervous about putting his information online because abortions are, after all, technically illegal here. So, if you want the info for the doctor, write a comment on this post and I'll send the information privately. Otherwise, I am sure if you go to the hospital they will direct you to this doctor anyway. 

As terrifying as this experience was, it was resolved quickly and I could not be more thankful for Dr. Park. That is all, I will keep this blog active even after I leave Korea, so if you have any questions, post a comment and I will respond with any information I have left.

I hope this has been helpful. 

6/9/2012 edit: I received an email asking about the abortion pill. After telling the girl that I had no idea how to obtain it in Korea, she did some research on her own and passed it on to me. Here's the info for anyone that's interested. Just know, I have no personal experience with this, I'm just passing on some information that I thought might be helpful. Always evaluate your options and make the decision best for you. 

 bathxb@naver.com its his email and 070 7946 8580 its his phone number
and i know there are a lot of fake pills online
but they really do give u ru 486 and he is really caring 
im not sure if he speaks english 
and i asked him if he minds if i post it online and he says its fine 
and you can tell them u got the number from " Eunju  Kim" 
i figure it would help a lot of woman in korea if u can add that up..
and u can also take the pills first and pay him later (with in a week or so)
only if it worked so its like better than money back crap

08/01/2012 edit: I'll be leaving Korea shortly so I won't really be able to respond to any emails. The information provided in the blog should be sufficient to get you the answers you need. Just call the number, press 1, and ask to speak to Dr. Park or to someone that speaks English (it will be Dr. Park anyway). Take care, everyone!