Abortion-related mortality accounts for 8% of all global maternal deaths and 97% of the estimated 25 million unsafe abortions performed each year occur in low- and middle-income countries. Haiti has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the western hemisphere and to further understand the circumstances of induced abortion in Haiti, the current work uses data from the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) to describe the methods of induced abortion in Haiti between 2007-2012 and to identify potential factors associated with use of different abortion methods.
This is a secondary analysis of nationally representative cross-sectional data from the 2012 Haitian DHS, a two-stage cluster randomized household survey. Analysis included descriptive statistics on participant demographics, methods of abortion, and location of / assistant for the abortion. Multivariate regression was conducted to determine if demographic characteristics were associated with: 1) increased or decreased odds of having an abortion; or 2) increased or decreased odds of reporting an evidence based or non-evidence based method of abortion.
Among the 14,287 women of childbearing age who completed the 2012 Haiti DHS survey, 289 women reported having an induced abortion in the previous five years. Recommended methods, manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) or misoprostol alone, were used in 26.6% of the abortions (n = 77). Additionally, 13.8% (n = 40) of abortions used these recommended methods in combination with a non-evidenced based method such as injections, plants or tablets. A total of 92 women had a dilation and curettage (D&C) abortion, either alone (n = 77) or in combination with another method (n = 15) and over a quarter (n = 80) of reported abortions were conducted by non-evidence based methods (n = 80). A majority of abortions using a recommended method were assisted by a relative/friend (n = 28) or were unassisted (n = 34). Most abortions occurred in private homes (n = 174) with hospitals/clinics being the second most common location (n = 84). Women in the middle (OR = 3.3, 95% CI = 2.0-5.6) and highest (OR = 7.4, 95% CI = 4.4-12.3) wealth brackets were more likely to have had an abortion in comparison to women in the lowest wealth bracket. Women who had ever been in a marital union were more likely to have had an abortion than those who had not. The only demographic factor predictive of aborting using a recommended method was living in an urban area, with urban-dwelling women being less likely to use a recommended abortion method (OR = 0.4, 95% CI = 0.2-0.9) in comparison with women living in rural settings.
In a nationally representative survey in Haiti, 2% of women of childbearing age reported having an abortion in the five years prior to the survey. A large proportion of these abortions were carried out using non-evidence based methods and over half occurred outside of the formal health care system. Understanding women’s attitudes, knowledge and barriers around abortion is paramount to improving knowledge and access to evidence-based abortion care in an effort to decrease maternal morbidity and mortality in Haiti.