South African Family Practice

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An audit of surgical termination of pregnancy at a level 1 health facility in South Africa

J Devjee, S Khedun, J Moodley


Background: It was alleged that the termination of pregnancy (TOP) services in a certain district health facility were forgoing the opportunity to offer screening tests for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and syphilis for women seeking legal medical abortions. In addition, there were concerns regarding the lack of provision of contraceptive services, particularly in view of media reports of young women having repeated TOP procedures as a family planning method. It was therefore decided to perform an audit of the TOP services at this district health facility.
Method: A semi-structured questionnaire was used to obtain information from all women undergoing a TOP during a sixmonth period at a district hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. Demographic information, clinical details and attitudes towards TOP were obtained. All women were interviewed in private prior to discharge from the clinic.
Results: A total of 645 women were enrolled. Their mean age was 23 (range 15-44) years and 437 (67.8%) were primiparous. Of the 645 women, contraceptive failure (condom) occurred in 38 cases (6%). Two hundred and twenty-two (34.4%) had previously used a family planning method, the most common being depot preparations (35.1%), followed by condoms (28.9%) and oral contraception (15.8%). One hundred and nine (16.9%) women accepted the condoms offered while the remainder indicated that they would obtain contraceptives from the family planning clinic in their area of residence. Twentynine (5%) had at least one previous TOP while 25 (86%) and four (14%) had second and third requests for TOP respectively. None of the women had any serological screening tests performed or were given information about testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV screening, prior to discharge from the clinic.
Conclusion: Women having TOP at this district hospital are not offered counselling and information on screening for sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, few women take up the offer of contraceptives. There is a need for health care providers to strengthen reproductive health services at TOP clinics.

Keywords: surgical termination of pregnancy, contraception, unwanted pregnancy, Durban, South Africa

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