Prevention of Unsafe Abortion

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Worldwide, an estimated five million women are hospitalized each year for treatment of abortion-related complications, such as hemorrhage and sepsis. Complications due to unsafe abortion procedures account for an estimated 13% of maternal deaths worldwide, or 67,000 per year. Almost all abortion-related deaths occur in developing countries. They are highest in Africa, where there were an estimated 650 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions in 2003, compared with 10 per 100,000 in developed regions. Approximately 220,000 children worldwide lose their mothers every year from abortion-related deaths.

Additional consequences of unsafe abortion include loss productivity, economic burden on public health systems, stigma and long-term health problems, such as infertility. More than one-third of the approximately 205 million pregnancies that occur worldwide annually are unintended and about 20% of all pregnancies end in induced abortion. Of the 23 million pregnancies that occur in developed countries, more than 40% are unintended, and 28% end in induced abortion. Of the 182 million pregnancies that occur in developing countries, more than one-third are unintended, and 19% end in induced abortion (8% are safe procedures and 11% are unsafe).

The average woman must use some form of effective contraception for at least 20 years if she wants to limit her family size to two children, and 16 years if she wants four children. Two-thirds of unintended pregnancies in developing countries occur among women who are not using any method of contraception. More than 100 million married women in developing countries have an unmet need for contraception, meaning they are sexually active; are able to become pregnant; do not want to have a child soon or at all; and are not using any method of contraception, either modern or traditional.

The reasons why women (married and unmarried) do not use contraceptives most commonly include concerns about possible health and side effects and the belief that they are not at risk of getting pregnant. The aim of this component is to determine unsafe abortion prevalence and practices, to produce norms, tools and guidelines on preventing unsafe abortion, and to assist countries in reducing unsafe abortion among others, by preventing unwanted pregnancies and improving access to quality post-abortion care.