Reprod Health. 2015 Mar 21;12(1):22

Unsafe abortion requiring hospital admission in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea – a descriptive study of women's and health care workers' experiences

Vallely LM, Homiehombo P, Kelly-Hanku A and Whittaker A


Background: In Papua New Guinea induced abortion is restricted under the Criminal Code Law. Unsafe abortions are known to be widely practiced and sepsis due to unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality.

Methods: We undertook a six month, prospective, mixed methods study at the Eastern Highlands Provincial Hospital. Semi structured and in depth interviews were undertaken with women presenting following induced abortion. This paper describes the reasons why women resorted to unsafe abortion, the techniques used, decision to seek post abortion care and women's reflections post abortion.

Results: 28 women were admitted to hospital following an induced abortion. Reasons for inducing an abortion included: wanting to continue with studies, relationship problems and socio-cultural factors. Misoprostol was the most frequently used method to end the pregnancy. Physical and mechanical means, traditional herbs and spiritual beliefs were also reported. Women sought care post abortion due to excessive vaginal bleeding, and severe abdominal pain with some afraid they would die if they did not seek help.

Conclusion: In the absence of contraceptive information and services to avoid, postpone or space pregnancies, women in this setting are resorting to unsafe means to end an unwanted pregnancy, putting their lives at risk. Women need access to safe, effective means of abortion

Comment: We cannot emphasize enough that women who get pregnant in the absence of safe family planning products, will rely on abortion. Unsafe abortion still kills many women and the legalization of abortion does not increase the number of abortions, but decreases the number of unsafe abortions, and therefore saves women. (HMV)