Outcomes of self-induced late pregnancy termination in women presenting to a tertiary hospital in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

S D Mandondo, G J Hofmeyr, F Mbengo, N T Mshweshwe-Paleka, T R Mavundla


Background. Little is known about the outcomes of self-induced pregnancy termination after 24 weeks’ gestation, as previous studies have concentrated on outcomes before 24 weeks.

Objectives. To investigate the gestational age, misoprostol dosage, source of information on misoprostol, reasons for termination and outcomes of self-induced pregnancy termination after 24 weeks’ gestation.

Methods. A quantitative, retrospective case series observational research design was utilised. Paediatric case summaries and the Perinatal Problem Identification Programme were used to collect data. Cases of self-induced pregnancy termination using misoprostol after 24 weeks’ gestation treated at a tertiary hospital in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, during the period 1 July 2011 - 1 January 2012 were identified and included in the study. Frequencies and proportions were used to analyse data.

Results. Eighteen known cases of self-induced pregnancy termination using misoprostol after 24 weeks’ gestation were treated at the hospital during the 6-month study period. Misoprostol doses ranged from 400 to 1 200 µg. Birth weight was <500 g in 1 case (6%), 500 - 1499 g in 12 (67%), 1 500 - 1 999 g in 2 (11%), >2 500 g in 1 (6%) and unknown in 1 (6%). Eleven of the babies (67%) were born alive and 5 (28%) were stillborn (1 further stillbirth (6%) was classified as an abortion, <500 g). One baby (6%) survived, and in 1 case (6%) the pregnancy continued. Eight of the 10 neonatal deaths were early and 2 were late. The major cause of neonatal death was hyaline membrane disease (n=8, 44%). Other causes were hypoxia (n=2), septicaemia (n=2), necrotising enterocolitis (n=2), pulmonary haemorrhage (n=2) and intraventricular haemorrhage (n=2). More than one cause applied in some cases. The maternal complications were manual removal of the placenta (n=2, 11%), ruptured uterus (n=1, 6%), and anaemia with blood transfusion (n=1, 6%).

Conclusions. Self-administration of misoprostol to induce pregnancy termination after 24 weeks’ gestation contributes to preterm births and perinatal morbidity and mortality. The findings of this study show that there is a need to educate women on the perinatal and maternal risks associated with self-induced pregnancy termination at a late stage of gestation, availability of safe options for pregnancy termination, and contraceptive use and adherence. Healthcare workers need to be sensitive to the possibility that cases of apparent spontaneous preterm labour or birth may have been self-induced.


Authors' affiliations

S D Mandondo, Walter Sisulu University and Eastern Cape Department of Health, East London, South Africa

G J Hofmeyr, Effective Research Care Unit, University of the Witwatersrand and Walter Sisulu University, East London, South Africa

F Mbengo, Child Welfare South Africa QwaQwa, Phuthaditjhaba, South Africa

N T Mshweshwe-Paleka, The Aurum Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa

T R Mavundla, Department of Health Studies, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Late pregnancy termination; Self-induced; Misoprostol; Preterm births; Perinatal morbidity and mortality

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2018;108(11):965-971. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2018.v108i11.12979

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-10-26
Date published: 2018-10-26

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