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Three Delays Model applied to prevention of unsafe abortion in Ghana: a qualitative study


Background Unsafe abortion is an important public health problem in Ghana, making significant contributions to the morbidity and mortality of reproductive-aged women. Although mostly used in explaining mortality associated with perinatal care, recent calls for research on induced abortion in Africa suggest that the Three Delays Model could be used to enhance understanding of women’s experiences and access to induced abortion care.

Methods We conducted 47 face-to-face interviews with women who had experienced unsafe abortions, with formal abortion providers (abortion providers in hospitals) and with informal and non-legal abortion providers (pharmacy workers and herb sellers). Study participants were recruited from selected hospitals, community pharmacies and markets within the Ashanti region of Ghana. We drew on phenomenology to analyse the data.

Findings The first delay (in seeking care) occurred because of women’s poor knowledge of pregnancy, the influence of religion, and as a result of women underestimating the seriousness of abortion complications. Factors including cost, provider attitudes, stigma, and the proximity of pharmacies to women’s homes delayed their access to safe abortion and resulted in their experience of the second delay (in reaching a healthcare facility). The third delay (in receiving appropriate care) was a result of hospitals’ non-prioritisation of abortion complications and a shortage of equipment, resulting in long hospital waiting times before treatment.

Conclusion This study has shown the value of the Three Delays Model in illustrating women’s experiences of unsafe abortions and ways of preventing the first, second and third delays in their access to care.

  • qualitative research
  • abortion
  • induced

Data availability statement

No data are available. Not applicable.

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