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Medical abortions among university students in Ghana: implications for reproductive health education and management

Authors Appiah-Agyekum NN

Received 23 December 2017

Accepted for publication 11 May 2018

Published 5 September 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 515—522


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Elie Al-Chaer

Nana Nimo Appiah-Agyekum

Department of Public Administration and Health Services Management, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra Ghana, Ghana

Purpose: In Ghana, unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal mortality. Even though pharmaceutical drugs seem to be a key means of unsafe abortion, a paucity of evidence exists on the issue among adolescents, students, and other groups at risk. This study therefore explores the abortion experiences of Ghanaian university students with particular reference to pharmaceutical drugs to fill the knowledge gap and enrich the evidence base for reproductive health education, policies, and interventions on abortions among students.
Patients and methods: Undergraduate students from the University of Ghana were randomly selected and interviewed. The interviews was recorded, transcribed, and analyzed thematically using the framework analysis.
Results: Students were aware of safe medical abortion services but were reluctant to use them because of cost, stigma, and proximity. Generally, medical abortions were more likely to be self-induced among students with misoprostol-based drugs administered orally or vaginally. However, students also used various over-the-counter drugs, contraceptives, and prescription drugs singly, in series, or in combinations to induce abortion. Yet students had relatively little knowledge on the inherent risks and long-term implications of unsafe medical abortions and were more likely to have repeat abortions through unsafe medical methods.
Conclusion: Students’ knowledge and awareness of safe medical abortion avenues have not influenced their propensity to use them because of stigma, cost, and other factors. Rather, several methods of unsafe medical abortions are used increasingly with dire long-term effects on students. Serious knowledge gaps exist among students on the methods and risks of medical abortion. Consequently, there is an urgent need to revise current abortion management approaches and redirect attention toward reducing stigma and financial and social costs of safe abortion services, and increasing the proactive engagement, counseling, and management of medical abortions among students.

Keywords: unsafe abortion, Ghana, medical abortion, university students, misoprostol

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