Background: Complications of abortion are one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide, along with hemorrhage, sepsis, and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy. In Afghanistan little data exist on the capacity of the health system to provide post-abortion care (PAC). This paper presents findings from a national emergency obstetric and neonatal care needs assessment related to PAC, with the aim of providing insight into the current situation and recommendations for improvement of PAC services.
Methods: A national Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care Needs Assessment was conducted from December 2009 through February 2010 at 78 of the 127 facilities designated to provide emergency obstetric and neonatal care services in Afghanistan. Research tools were adapted from the Averting Maternal Death and Disability Program Needs Assessment Toolkit and national midwifery education assessment tools. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize facility characteristics, and linear regression models were used to assess the factors associated with providers' PAC knowledge and skills.
Results: The average number of women receiving PAC in the past year in each facility was 244, with no significant difference across facility types. All facilities had at least one staff member who provided PAC services. Overall, 70% of providers reported having been trained in PAC and 68% felt confident in their ability to perform these services. On average, providers were able to identify 66% of the most common complications of unsafe or incomplete abortion and 57% of the steps to take in examining and managing women with these complications. Providers correctly demonstrated an average of 31% of the tasks required for PAC during a simulated procedure. Training was significantly associated with PAC knowledge and skills in multivariate regression models, but other provider and facility characteristics were not.
Conclusions: While designated emergency obstetric facilities in Afghanistan generally have most supplies and equipment for PAC, the capacity of healthcare providers to deliver PAC is limited. Therefore, we strongly recommend training all skilled birth attendants in PAC services. In addition, a PAC training package should be integrated into pre-service medical education.