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Unsafe abortion and postabortion care – an overview

Authors


  • Conflict of interest
    The author has stated explicitly that there are no conflicts of interest in connection with this article.

Correspondence
Vibeke Rasch, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Odense University Hospital, DK-5250 Odense, Denmark. E-mail: vrasch@health.sdu.dk

Abstract

Forty per cent of the world's women are living in countries with restrictive abortion laws, which prohibit abortion or only allow abortion to protect a woman's life or her physical or mental health. In countries where abortion is restricted, women have to resort to clandestine interventions to have an unwanted pregnancy terminated. As a consequence, high rates of unsafe abortion are seen, such as in Sub-Saharan Africa where unsafe abortion occurs at rates of 18–39 per 1 000 women. The circumstances under which women obtain unsafe abortion vary and depend on traditional methods known and types of providers present. Health professionals are prone to use instrumental procedures to induce the abortion, whereas traditional providers often make a brew of herbs to be drunk in one or more doses. In countries with restrictive abortion laws, high rates of maternal death must be expected, and globally an estimated 66 500 women die every year as a result of unsafe abortions. In addition, a far larger number of women experience short- and long-term health consequences. To address the harmful health consequences of unsafe abortion, a postabortion care model has been developed and implemented with success in many countries where women do not have legal access to abortion. Postabortion care focuses on treatment of incomplete abortion and provision of postabortion contraceptive services. To enhance women's access to postabortion care, focus is increasingly being placed on upgrading midlevel providers to provide emergency treatment as well as implementing misoprostol as a treatment strategy for complications after unsafe abortion.

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