Birth control and security from unsafe abortions


posted on: September 14th, 2018

Mortality from unsafe abortions disproportionately affects women in Africa: the continent sees 62% of all unsafe abortion-related deaths. Birth control can save women’s lives by reducing the number of unsafe abortions as it prevents unwanted or unplanned pregnancies before they begin. This means that in the future the woman can have a planned pregnancy and give birth to a healthier child who will receive the necessary care when growing up and will be empowered to contribute to the community.


If a woman is not using contraception during sex she can get pregnant. A woman may not wish to, or be physically unable to, give birth to the child. In such a case she can seek an abortion to terminate the pregnancy.

Unless the abortion is carried out by a certified professional and in an environment that conforms to minimum medical standards, it could be lethal or cause serious physical and mental trauma. However, few women in Africa have access to safe abortions because of restrictive laws, poor availability of services, high cost and cultural stigma. Women who cannot get a safe abortion frequently resort to an unsafe one.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 5 women die for every 1000 unsafe abortions. This is because unsafe abortions are likely to end in complications such as incomplete abortion, haemorrhage, infection, uterine perforation or injury to the genital tract and internal organs. Lethal outcome can be prevented by emergency treatment. For example, haemorrhage requires a blood transfusion and a serious infection should be treated with antibiotics. However, such treatment is often unavailable.


Contraception will not make uncertified abortions safer. Nor will it make emergency care more widely available. Instead, contraception has the potential to reduce the number of deaths from unsafe abortions by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and therefore reducing the number of women seeking abortions in the first place.

Around 25 million unsafe abortions are estimated to be taking place worldwide each year, almost all in developing countries. 7 million of these women are admitted to hospitals as a result, 130’000 with a lethal outcome. Birth control can reduce each of these numbers in turn.

Moreover, even if a lethal outcome is averted, an unsafe abortion can result in irreversible damage to women’s physical and mental health. It is also likely to damage the cervix and the uterus, making the woman infertile. Birth control can be used to avoid that and enable women to give birth to healthy children in planned pregnancies.

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