Objective To estimate and describe the magnitude of abortion complications presenting at public hospitals in Kenya.
Design Cross-sectional descriptive study.
Population Records of all women presenting prior to 22 weeks of gestation with abortion-related complications at selected hospitals during a three-week study period. All public tertiary and provincial hospitals were included; stratified random sampling was employed to select a subset of 54 district hospitals nationwide.
Methods Data collectors identified 809 patients with abortion complications on all hospital wards and completed a standardised questionnaire for each by extracting information from the patient's hospital record.
Main outcome measures Incidence, aetiology, morbidity and mortality of abortion complications.
Results Most women (80%) presented with incomplete abortion. Approximately 34% of the women had reached the second trimester of pregnancy. Adolescents (14–19 years old) accounted for approximately 16% of the study sample. Manual vacuum aspiration was used to manage 80% of first trimester cases. The projected annual number of women with abortion complications admitted to public hospitals in Kenya is 20,893. The case fatality rate was estimated to be 0.87% (95% CI 0.71–1.02%), so an estimated 182 (95% CI 148–213) of these women die annually. The annual incidence of incomplete abortion and other abortion-related complications per 1000 women aged 15 to 49 years is projected to be 3.03.
Conclusions The high rate of abortion-related morbidity and mortality documented in the study highlights the critical need to address the issue of unsafe abortion in Kenya.