Postabortion care in Latin America: policy and service recommendations from a decade of operations research

Health Policy Plan. 2005 May;20(3):158-66. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czi020.


Unsafe abortion contributes significantly to maternal mortality and morbidity in Latin America. Postabortion care (PAC) using preferred technologies and a woman-centred approach to treat the complications of unsafe abortion can save women's lives and improve their reproductive health, as well as reduce costs to health systems. This article reviews results from 10 major PAC operations research projects conducted in public sector hospitals in seven Latin American countries, completed and published between 1991 and 2002. The studies show that following relatively modest interventions, the majority of eligible patients were being treated with manual vacuum aspiration (MVA), a method preferred for safety and other reasons over the method conventionally used in the region, sharp curettage (SC). A number of studies showed improvements in contraceptive counselling and services when these were integrated with clinical treatment of abortion complications, resulting in substantial increases in contraceptive acceptance. Finally, data from several studies showed that, in most settings, reorganizing services by moving treatment out of the operating theatre and reclassifying treatment as an ambulatory care procedure substantially reduced the resources used for PAC, as well as the cost and average length of women's stay in the hospital. These studies suggest that comprehensive PAC can and should be available to all women in Latin America. Such efforts should be coupled with work to improve primary prevention, including better contraceptive services to prevent unwanted pregnancy and safe, legal abortion services to reduce the number of clandestine and unsafe abortions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal* / adverse effects
  • Aftercare
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Public
  • Humans
  • Latin America
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Policy Making*
  • Postoperative Care / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Pregnancy