Unsafe abortion in urban and rural Tanzania: method, provider and consequences

Trop Med Int Health. 2009 Sep;14(9):1128-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2009.02327.x. Epub 2009 Jul 2.


Objective: To describe unsafe abortion methods and associated health consequences in Tanzania, where induced abortion is restricted by law but common and known to account for a disproportionate share of hospital admissions.

Method: Cross-sectional study of women admitted with alleged miscarriage: 278 in rural Tanzania and 473 in urban Tanzania. Women who had undergone a clandestinely induced abortion were identified by an empathetic approach and interviewed in detail about the procedure. Information about complications was obtained from the patient file.

Results: Sixty-two per cent in rural Tanzania and 63% in urban Tanzania stated that they had had an unsafe induced abortion. The abortion had been induced by an unskilled provider in 46% of rural women and 60% of urban women. Herbs and roots had commonly been used for induction, in 42% of rural and 54% of urban women. The method most often associated with abortion complications was catheter/roots, whereas the method least often associated with complications was herbs.

Conclusion: The large number of women identified as having had unsafe abortion together with the prevalent use of herbs calls for attention.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / adverse effects*
  • Abortion, Induced / methods
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tanzania
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult