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J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2004 Jun;30(3):197-201.

Unsafe abortion: a neglected tragedy. Review from a tertiary care hospital in India.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India.



With 16% of the world's population, India accounts for over 20% of the world's maternal deaths. The maternal mortality ratio, defined as the number of maternal deaths per 100 000 live births is incredibly high at 408 per 100 000 live births for the country. Abortion has been legalized in India for the past three decades. However, the share of unsafe abortion as a cause of maternal mortality continues to be alarming. The objective of the present study is to identify the magnitude of problem of unsafe abortion in India.


Emergency gynecologic admissions to a tertiary care center in North India over a 15-year period (1988-2002) were reviewed to evaluate the demographic and clinical profile of patients admitted as a result of unsafe abortion. The records were analyzed with regard to the age group, parity and marital status of the abortion seekers, the indication of abortion, the methods used, qualification of abortion providers, complications and fatality rate.


The majority of women who were admitted with diagnosis of unsafe abortion were in the third decade of their lives. They were married, multiparous women living with their spouses. Sixty percent of the women had approached unqualified abortion providers who used primitive methods of pregnancy termination. All the women were admitted with serious complications of unsafe abortions and one-fourth of them succumbed to the complications.


Unsafe abortion constitutes a major threat to the health and lives of women. This study highlights the need to focus more directly on the needs and preferences of women who seek abortion as well as on the accessibility of contraceptives and skills of the providers of abortion services, in order to improve the quality of abortion care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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