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25 Million unsafe abortions annually - WHO

Publishing Date : 02 September, 2019


Abortions are safe if they are done with a method recommended by World health organization WHO that is appropriate to the pregnancy duration and if the person providing or supporting the abortion is trained. Such abortions can be done using tablets, or a simple outpatient procedure.


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. The people, skills, and medical standards considered safe in the provision of induced abortions are different for medical abortion, and surgical abortion, which is performed with a manual aspirator. Skills and medical standards required for safe abortion also vary depending upon the duration of the pregnancy and evolving scientific advances. According to WHO report, there are approximately 25 Million unsafe abortions annually. Of these one third or approximately 8 Million were performed under the least safe conditions by untrained persons using dangerous and invasive methods. Unsafe abortions lead to an estimated 7 Million complications.


In developed regions, it is estimated that 30 women die for every 100 000 unsafe abortions. That number rises to 220 000 deaths per 100 000 unsafe abortions in developing regions and 520 deaths per 100 000 unsafe abortions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mortality from unsafe abortion disproportionately affects women in Africa. While the continent accounts for 29% of all unsafe abortions, it sees 62% of unsafe abortion-related deaths. Any woman with an unwanted pregnancy who cannot access safe abortion is at risk for unsafe abortion. Women living in low-income countries and poor women are more likely to have an unsafe abortion. Deaths and injuries are higher when unsafe abortion is performed later in pregnancy. The rate of unsafe abortion is higher where access to effective contraception and safe abortion is limited.


Following unsafe abortion, women may experience a range of harms that affect their quality of life and well-being, with some women experiencing life-threatening complications. The major life-threatening complications resulting from the least safe abortions are haemorrhage, infection, and injury to the genital tract and internal organs. Unsafe abortions when performed under least safe conditions can lead to complications such as incomplete abortion, or failure to remove or expel all of the pregnancy tissue from the uterus, heavy bleeding, infection, uterine perforation, and damage to the genital tract and internal organs by inserting dangerous objects such as sticks, knitting needles, broken glass into the vagina or anus. Between 2010 and 2014, on average, 56 Million induced abortions occurred worldwide each year, and there were 35 induced abortions per 1000 women aged between 15 and 44 years. 25% of all pregnancies ended in an induced abortion. The rate of abortions was higher in developing regions than in developed regions. 


Over half of all estimated unsafe abortions globally were in Asia, 3 out of 4 abortions that occurred in Africa and Latin America were unsafe. The risk of dying from an unsafe abortion was the highest in Africa. Further, WHO stresses that the annual cost of treating major complications from unsafe abortion is estimated a 553 Million US Dollars. Almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion and timely care for complications.



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