Context: Each year, thousands of Nigerian women have unintended pregnancies that end in illegal abortion. Many such procedures occur under unsafe conditions, contributing to maternal morbidity and mortality.
Methods: In a 2002-2003 survey of women and their providers in 33 hospitals in eight states across Nigeria, 2,093 patients were identified as being treated for complications of abortion or miscarriage or seeking an abortion. Women's abortion experiences and the health consequences and associated costs were examined through bivariate analysis. Multivariate analysis was used to examine the characteristics of women by type of pregnancy loss and to compare characteristics among three groups of women who had induced abortions in differing circumstances.
Results: Among women admitted for abortion-related reasons, 36% had attempted to end the pregnancy before coming to the hospital (including 24% with and 12% without serious complications), 33% obtained an induced abortion at the facility (not withstanding the country's restrictive law) without having made a prior abortion attempt and 32% were treated for complications from a miscarriage. Of women with serious complications, 24% had sepsis, 21% pelvic infection and 11% instrumental injury; 22% required blood transfusion and 10% needed abdominal surgery. The women in this group were poorer and later in gestation than those who sought abortions directly from hospitals. They paid more for treatment (about 13,900 naira) than those who went directly to the hospital for an abortion (3,800 naira) or those treated for miscarriage (5,100 naira).
Conclusions: Policy and program interventions are needed to improve access to contraceptive services and postabortion care in order to reduce abortion-related morbidity and mortality.