The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated the fact sheet on Preventing Unsafe Abortion.
Unsafe abortion occurs when a pregnancy is terminated
- either by persons lacking the necessary skills,
- or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards,
- or both
Medical abortion is performed using drugs alone.
Surgical abortion is performed with a manual or electrical aspirator.
An estimated 22 million unsafe abortions take place each year, almost entirely in developing countries.
Around 5 million women are hospitalized as a result of unsafe abortions each year.
Of the women who develop complications following unsafe abortion, more than 3 million women do not receive care.
In 2008, there were an estimated 47,000 deaths due to unsafe abortions, with almost 2/3rds occurring in Africa.
Women and adolescents with unwanted pregnancies resort to unsafe abortion when they cannot access safe abortion. Barriers to accessing safe abortion include:
- Restrictive laws
- Poor availability of services
- High cost
- Conscientious objection of health-care providers
- Unnecessary requirements that delay care
Complications of unsafe abortions include:
- Incomplete abortion (failure to remove/ expel all of the pregnancy tissue from the uterus)
- Haemorrhage (heavy bleeding)
- Uterine perforation (caused when the uterus is pierced by a sharp object
- Damage to the genital tract and internal organs by inserting dangerous objects such as sticks, knitting needles, broken glass into the vagina or anus.
- Death due to one or more complications
Unsafe abortion can be prevented through
- Good sexual education
- Prevention of unintended pregnancy through use of effective contraception, including emergency contraception, and
- Provision of safe, legal abortion
Link to the updated fact sheet:
Link to the Clinical Practice Handbook for Safe Abortion: