An abortion can occur spontaneously due tocomplicationsduringpregnancy or can be induced in humans and other species. In the context of human pregnancies, an abortioninduced to preserve the health of thegravida(pregnant female) is termed a
, while anabortion induced for any other reason is termed an
Abortions are unsafe when performed by persons withoutthe proper skills or outside of a medically safe environment. An estimated 42 million abortions are performedannually with 20 million of those abortions done unsafely around the world.
Abortion has a longhistoryand has been induced by various methods including herbalabortifacients, the useof sharpened tools,physical trauma, and other traditional methods.Contemporary medicine utilizesmedications and surgical procedures to induce abortion. Thelegality, prevalence, cultural status, and religiousstatus of abortion vary substantially around the world. In many parts of the world there is prominent anddivisivepublic controversyover theethicaland legal issues of abortion. Abortion and abortion-related issuesfeature prominently in the national politics in many nations, often involving the opposingpro-lifeandpro-
Specific procedures may also be selected due to legality, regional availability, and doctor-patientpreference. Reasons for procuring induced abortions are typically characterized as either therapeutic or elective. An abortion is medically referred to as atherapeutic abortionwhen it is performed to:
Spontaneous abortion (also known as miscarriage) is the expulsion of an embryo or fetus due toaccidental trauma or natural causes before approximately the 22ndweek of gestation; the definition bygestational age varies by country.
Most miscarriages are due to incorrect replication of chromosomes;
they can also be caused by environmental factors. A pregnancy that ends before 37 weeks of gestationresulting in alive-borninfant is known as a "premature birth". When a fetus diesin uteroafter about 22weeks, or duringdelivery, it is usually termed "stillborn". Premature births and stillbirths are generally notconsidered to be miscarriages although usage of these terms can sometimes overlap.Between 10% and 50% of pregnancies end in clinically apparent miscarriage, depending upon the ageand health of the pregnant woman.
Most miscarriages occur very early in pregnancy, in most cases,they occur so early in the pregnancy that the woman is not even aware that she was pregnant. One studytesting hormones for ovulationand pregnancy found that 61.9% of conceptuseswere lost prior to 12weeks, and 91.7% of these losses occurred subclinically, without the knowledge of the once pregnantwoman.