Introduction: Although termination of pregnancy (termination) has been legal in the Kingdom of Cambodia since 1997, a number of barriers to safe termination services persist and many women continue to induce their own terminations or seek unsafe services that result in complications requiring 'post-abortion' care.
Objective: To describe the complications of miscarriage and failed terminations and document the magnitude of the resulting morbidity in the Cambodian public sector.
Design: Cross-sectional descriptive study.
Setting: Public sector hospitals and health centres.
Sample: Stratified multistage sampling design included all hospitals (n = 71), 14% of eligible high-level health centres (n = 58) and 22% of eligible low-level health centres (n = 57).
Methods: Data collectors used a standardised questionnaire to record information on diagnosis, reproductive history and treatment from 629 women seeking care for termination or miscarriage-related complications in study facilities over a 3-week period.
Main outcome measures: Annual estimate of cases, clinical symptoms, severity distribution of morbidity, ratio of complications to live births and incidence of abortion complications for Cambodian public health facilities.
Results: In 2005, an estimated 31,579 women with complications of miscarriage or terminations were treated in Cambodian government facilities; 80% of these women sought care at a health centre. Forty percent of all women seeking care for complications either reported or showed strong clinical evidence of prior attempted terminations. Nearly 17% of these women were in the second trimester of pregnancy and 42% of them presented with high severity complications. The annual incidence of termination and miscarriage complications (abortion complications) was 867 per 100,000 women of reproductive age. The projected ratio of complications was 93 per 1000 live births.
Conclusions: To reduce maternal morbidity in Cambodia, women must be encouraged to seek safe termination services or seek postabortion care without delay. Additionally, providers need further training, and facilities greater commitment, to provide safe terminations and care for complications of unsafe terminations and miscarriage.