Caring for women with abortion complications in Ethiopia: National estimates and future implications

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

CONTEXT: Ethiopia liberalized its abortion law in 2005, primarily to reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion. However, little is known about the current extent and consequences of unsafe abortion. METHODS: Data were collected in 2007–2008 on 1,932 women seeking postabortion care at a nationally representative sample of 344 public and private health facilities. In addition, staff respondents at 337 facilities provided information on their facility’s services and caseload. These data were used to examine patterns of abortion-related morbidity and treatment and to generate national estimates. RESULTS: Almost 58,000 women sought care for complications of induced or spontaneous abortion in 2008. Three quarters of the women received care in government facilities. Forty-one percent had moderate or severe morbidity, such as signs of infection, that were likely related to an unsafe abortion. Seven percent of all women had signs of a mechanical injury or a vaginally inserted foreign body. More than 13,000 women seeking postabortion care required a hospital stay of at least 24 hours. The case fatality rate among women seeking postabortion care in public hospitals, where the most serious complications were seen, was 628 per 100,000. CONCLUSIONS: Postabortion care and safe abortion services should be further expanded and strengthened to make these services more accessible and affordable, which in turn may ease the financial burden on hospitals and allow the resources currently required for postabortion care to be used for other health needs. Ensuring that all women know that safe abortion is available and legal for many indications will further reduce morbidity from unsafe abortions.