Reducing maternal mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortion

Partner: Options, CIFF, Marie Stopes International, dkt International | Location: Kenya, Nigeria

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Adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa are disproportionately at risk of unintended pregnancy. Girls ages 15-19 are twice as likely to have an unmet need for contraception compared to women in their twenties.

Unsafe abortion remains a leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide, but is particularly devastating in sub-Saharan Africa. This region accounts for 29% of unsafe abortion worldwide, yet 62% of all abortion-related deaths. Maternal mortality stands at 520 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 220 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions across all developing regions.

Early sexual debut increases the likelihood of forced or coerced sex, which undermines adolescent girls’ ability to exert autonomy over their sexual and reproductive health choices and futures.

Furthermore, stigma and discrimination remain tremendous barriers for adolescent girls who wish to access sexual and reproductive health information and services. Very little research has been conducted specifically on their perceptions and experiences of unintended pregnancies and abortion in sub-Saharan Africa in general, and in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa specifically.



YLabs utilized a human-centered design approach to understand the social, economic, and structural determinants that contribute to an adolescent girl’s experience of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion. We are working with adolescent girls to co-design and prototype user-centered solutions that will be informed by and refined according to their needs, perspectives and preferences in order to support their pathways to safe, high-quality care.

Led by Options UK, YLabs is working with local community-based organizations to develop a deep understanding of the barriers, stigma, and innovations needed to improve access to needed reproductive health services for adolescent girls.


Next Steps

We are currently prototyping innovations with adolescent girls to co-design contextually-relevant solutions to increase access to safe, affordable, and high-quality reproductive health services.