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Cent Afr J Med. 2001 Sep-Oct;47(9-10):214-20.

Abortion admissions in rural Matebeleland north province.



To describe the characteristics, clinical features and management of women admitted with an abortion in rural Zimbabwe.


Cross sectional descriptive study.


Four government and two mission hospitals in rural Matebeleland North province.


Hospital records of 355 consecutive women admitted with the diagnosis abortion from May to October 2000, and delivery registers covering the same six month period.


Age, marital status, reproductive history, referral status, distance home to hospital, presenting symptoms, findings on examination, complications, management in hospital, final diagnosis, length of hospital stay.


Abortion patients tended to be older and of higher parity than women who delivered in the same period. Fifteen percent were teenagers, 81.2% were married and 2% nullipara. Mean period of gestation was 11.3 weeks. About half of the women had been referred and 74.4% lived within a 50 km radius from the hospital. Forty two percent had never used contraception. Of the users, 38.6% had discontinued in order to conceive and 19.3% had fallen pregnant on the method. Thirty one percent of the women wanted no more children. One third of the abortion patients had a temperature above 37.6 degrees C; 25.9% offensive vaginal discharge and 7% a haemoglobin of less than 6 g/dl. Eighty percent were given antibiotics and 4.2% received a blood transfusion; 73.2% had an evacuation of the uterus for incomplete abortion, with a mean delay between admission and evacuation of 32.5 hours. Only 17.5% of the women had on record that they were given a contraceptive method on discharge. Mean length of hospital stay was 3.1 days. The case fatality rate was more than 1%. An estimated 43.4% of the women had a possibly unsafe induced abortion prior to admission.


As evidenced by the high morbidity and mortality, abortions are a serious public health problem in rural Matebeleland North. Taking into account that only a minority of the women with both unsafe and spontaneous abortions present to a hospital, it is imperative that the reproductive needs of the women who do come are addressed. No opportunity should be missed to offer contraceptives to a group of women whose use of contraception is lower than average. Clinical management of abortion patients could improve by earlier evacuation of the uterus in cases of incomplete abortion, use of local or no anaesthesia and by increased availability of suction cannulas in district level hospitals, which would also reduce length of hospital stay.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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