The Abortion Paradox in Uganda: Fertility Regulator or Cause of Maternal Mortality

J Obstet Gynaecol. 2005 Nov;25(8):776-80. doi: 10.1080/01443610500328074.


Both fertility and maternal mortality indices are high among Ugandan mothers. The expected benefits in fertility and maternal mortality reduction from a rising contraceptive uptake in the country (from 5% in 1991 to 23% by the year 2000) have not been forthcoming because the increase in contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) was below the critical level required to cause any meaningful change in overall fertility and maternal mortality. The strong desire among couples to limit family size coupled with the lack of access to modern methods of contraception by many women, especially in the rural areas of the country, have contributed to the increasing use of abortion as a means of averting unplanned or mistimed motherhood. In contrast to the expected results of a typical fertility regulator, however, abortion seems to up-regulate instead of down-regulate the occurrence of maternal mortality. This paradoxical relationship is explained mainly by the illegality of the procedure, which converts it to a clandestine activity performed by poorly trained individuals operating, in many instances, in septic settings. A practical solution is to make modern and effective methods of contraception widely available, especially among rural-dwellers. Through this and coupled with training of personnel, as well as demystification of abortion by dismantling the stigma of "illegality" associated with it, down-regulation of fertility and maternal mortality can both be achieved in a country like Uganda where population explosion is further complicated by a high incidence of maternal demise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / adverse effects
  • Abortion, Induced / mortality*
  • Abortion, Induced / trends*
  • Contraception / trends*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Mortality / trends
  • Pregnancy
  • Uganda / epidemiology