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Training drug sellers on safe abortion to reduce maternal mortality

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Scientists have urged the federal, state, and local governments to work with drug sellers associations to improve the quality of abortion medication services in the country, given their critical role in providing drugs to prevent severe morbidity and mortality caused by unsafe abortion procedures.

The scientists who made known to the media the findings of their study on Women’s Experience with Self-Managed Misoprostol Abortions in Lagos State said governments must take steps to train drug sellers to share key information on the safe and effective use of the World Health Organisation recommended abortion medication, Misoprostol, to protect women from dying from unwanted pregnancy and related conditions.

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In the study jointly conducted in Lagos by the Nigeria-based Academy for Health Development (AHEAD), Centre for Research, Evaluation Resources and Development (CREED) and United States-based Guttmacher Institute, the scientists found that drug sellers play a critical role in providing information and access to abortion medication, especially as they are the first point of care to women in communities.

They said improving drug sellers’ knowledge on providing evidence-based information on possible complications and access to post-abortion care to all women who purchase misoprostol for abortion is crucial in preventing severe morbidity and mortality caused by unsafe abortion procedures.

Presenting his findings, Co-Principal Investigator at AHEAD, who is also a Professor of Medicine, Vice-Chancellor, University of Medical Sciences, Ondo State, Adesegun Fatusi, said women are dying unnecessarily from pregnancy-related conditions, with 40 percent of death occurring among teenagers, which he said translates to millions of young girls dying every year.

He said the study was done to proffer solutions to maternal mortality, especially as most women use different drugs to commit abortion, thereby harming themselves.

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Fatusi said while the research found that woman take misoprostol for abortion, which is found to be a safe and effective drug in terminating a pregnancy, especially as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the drug for abortion, training drug sellers with the right information is necessary, such as what to expect during abortion process, potential signs of complications, where to access medical care and referral mechanism to save more women from dying.

He said while Nigeria has licensed misoprostol for postpartum hemorrhage, (bleeding after pregnancy), the government should also approve it for abortion as its self-use will continue to be a safe and effective alternative for the woman who may otherwise induce pregnancy and abortion using unsafe methods, particularly in settings where abortion is legally restricted.

Also, Senior Research Scientist at Guttmacher Institute and Co-investigator on the study, Onikepe Owolabi said while drug sellers are often the only point of care for many women, they are vital resources for providing high-quality information about this medication.

Professor of Demography, Obafemi Awolowo University and Director at CREED, Akanni Adeyemo explained that during the study, 94 percent of women reported complete abortion without medical intervention within one month of taking Misoprostol, which initiated the need to provide drug sellers with quality information and services, as they are a key factor in providing information that affects women’s abortion experience.

He, however, called on the Ministry of Health to consider the use of misoprostol as a harm reduction approach to prevent morbidity and mortality caused by unsafe abortion procedures.

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