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.