Background: Tanzania has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, and unsafe abortion is one of its leading causes. Yet little is known about its incidence.
Objectives: To provide the first ever estimates of the incidence of unsafe abortion in Tanzania, at the national level and for each of the 8 geopolitical zones (7 in Mainland plus Zanzibar).
Methods: A nationally representative survey of health facilities was conducted to determine the number of induced abortion complications treated in facilities. A survey of experts on abortion was conducted to estimate the likelihood of women experiencing complications and obtaining treatment. These surveys were complemented with population and fertility data to obtain abortion numbers, rates and ratios, using the Abortion Incidence Complications Methodology.
Results: In Tanzania, women obtained just over 405,000 induced abortions in 2013, for a national rate of 36 abortions per 1,000 women age 15-49 and a ratio of 21 abortions per 100 live births. For each woman treated in a facility for induced abortion complications, 6 times as many women had an abortion but did not receive care. Abortion rates vary widely by zone, from 10.7 in Zanzibar to 50.7 in the Lake zone.
Conclusions: The abortion rate is similar to that of other countries in the region. Variations by zone are explained mainly by differences in fertility and contraceptive prevalence. Measures to reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion and associated maternal mortality include expanding access to post-abortion care and contraceptive services to prevent unintended pregnancies.