Counting abortions so that abortion counts: Indicators for monitoring the availability and use of abortion care services

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2006 Nov;95(2):209-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2006.08.002. Epub 2006 Oct 5.


Summary: Maternal mortality reduction has been a focus of major international initiatives for the past two decades. Widespread provision of emergency obstetric care (EmOC) has been shown to be an important strategy for addressing many of the complications that might otherwise lead to maternal death. However, unsafe abortion is one of the major causes of pregnancy-related deaths, and will be only partially addressed by EmOC. This manuscript presents a comprehensive approach to measuring whether abortion-related needs are met.

Proposed methods: We propose a set of indicators for monitoring the implementation of safe abortion care (SAC) interventions. We build on the model developed for monitoring the availability and use of Emergency Obstetric (EmOC) services. We describe the critical elements ("signal functions") of SAC - including treatment of abortion complications, legal, induced abortion and postabortion contraception - and define the indicators necessary to assess the availability, utilization and quality of abortion-related services.

Sample evidence: Data from 5 countries suggest there are sufficient service delivery points to provide decentralized abortion care, but that the full range of necessary abortion care services may not be provided at all these sites. Studies from several countries also show that many women receiving services for the treatment of abortion complications accept contraceptive methods when offered prior to discharge. This is an important strategy for reducing unwanted pregnancy, repeat unsafe abortion and risk for abortion-related mortality. Both findings suggest there are considerable opportunities within the present facilities to improve the delivery of abortion care services.

Conclusion: This article recommends that the proposed model undergo field-testing on its own or in conjunction with the EmOC indicators, and encourages increased support for this important but often neglected aspect of pregnancy-related health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / adverse effects
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Mortality*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • United Nations / standards
  • United Nations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Women's Health Services / statistics & numerical data*