Medical Termination of Pregnancy on the Rise

It is estimated that each year more than 2,500 babies are born with Down syndrome in the country.It is estimated that each year more than 2,500 babies are born with Down syndrome in the country.

The number of applications registering for medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) has increased in the past few years, and consequently the number of such procedures has seen an increase.

According to Iran’s Legal medicine Organization (ILMO), this can be attributed to women’s raised awareness of the existing modern prenatal screening tests and the legal chance to terminate pregnancy when their unborn babies are diagnosed with a fetal abnormality. MTP is an effective way of preventing congenital defects.

Prenatal screening tests are a set of procedures performed during pregnancy to determine whether a baby is likely to have birth defects. The tests are usually performed during the first and second trimesters.

According to ILMO, the number of permits issued to applicants has been reported at 4,818, 5,404, 6,272, 7,125, and 8,537 in the calendar years 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, respectively, its website reported.

Last year (ended March), a total of 12,281 women sought permission for therapeutic abortion. The number of requests increased by 23.4% compared to the previous year. Also, the number of permits issued to applicants increased by 19.8%.

Tehran, Khorasan Razavi, Isfahan, and Fars provinces had the highest rates of registered applicants respectively. Last year, 2,071 requests were registered in Tehran alone.

Legal permission for pregnancy termination is granted only on two grounds: fetal abnormality and existence of threat to mother’s life. Valid genetic testing, ultrasound, written consent of mother, and gestational period of less than 19 weeks of the fetus, besides approval by three medical specialists are mandatory.

 Mandatory Genetic Testing

According to Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpei, head of State Welfare Organization (SWO), there are 1.1 million people with various disabilities in the country, including 40,000 severely handicapped.

Recently, the Health Ministry announced that new genetic screening programs for expectant mothers in different age groups have been developed as part of the 2014 Health Reform Plan, and the mandatory services will be provided soon by both state-run and private medical centers.

Dr Ashraf Samavat, head of the Genetic Office at the Health Ministry said as per the program, a pregnant woman will receive prenatal genetic screening services to evaluate and prevent risks of congenital disorders in her unborn baby. “The mandatory testing will be added to the existing health package for pregnant women.”

Currently, healthcare providers recommend only some mothers-to-be to undergo genetic testing for Down syndrome, but after implementation of the new plan, all pregnant women should be compulsorily screened.  Genetic screening will help pregnant women know their chances of having a baby with Down syndrome. The testing is free of charge.

It is estimated that each year more than 2,500 babies are born with Down syndrome in the country (1.6 per 1000 births). The rate is 1 in every 700 births or less in most of the developed countries.

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