Care for Postabortion Complications: Saving women's lives
Each year, an estimated 585,000 women in developing countries die from complications of pregnancy, childbirth, and unsafe abortion. Virtually all of these maternal deaths are preventable. Although many countries have designed programs to prevent hemorrhage, obstructed labor, infection, and pregnancy-induced hypertension, unsafe abortion remains a neglected area. Up to 20 million unsafe abortions are performed each year, and 10-50% are associated with a need for emergency medical care for complications. At present, such care tends to be provided in a crisis atmosphere, with little attention to prevention through counseling and contraceptive provision. Outlined in this report is a postabortion strategy that ensures that women receive complete, appropriate, and prompt emergency treatment as well as family planning counseling to prevent the need for repeat abortions. Manual vacuum aspiration under local anesthesia is safer and less expensive than sharp curettage with general anesthesia--the treatment commonly used in many countries. Decentralization of emergency care, as well as establishment of a formal referral system, would ensure that each woman receives prompt, appropriate care. Health care professionals and nongovernmental organizations must disseminate information to policy-makers documenting that postabortion care saves women's lives.