According to hospital research, almost 50 percent of Kenya's gynecological emergencies compromise complications arising out of abortions done the wrong, often dangerous way.
The research, which was carried out by Kakamega Provincial General Hospital in western Kenya, also observed that the sufferers were teenagers aged about 17.
The study, which appeared in the East African Medical Journal (EAMJ) states that abortion, which accounts for 43 per cent of all cases admitted with acute gynecological conditions, also accounts for the longest hospital stays.
Accordingly, an average 91 bed-hours are required to treat a patient suffering from the complications of unsafe abortion, compared with 39 hours for patients reporting with other gynecological problems.
The Kakamega study was based on 400 women, and was carried out by researchers from the University of Nairobi, led by Dr P.M Ndavi, a lecturer at the institution's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Apart from the immediate complications of abortion, the other leading causes of emergency admissions were found to be inflammatory disease (24 per cent), pelvic abscess (10 per cent) and ectopic pregnancies (8 per cent).
The study also found that, the majority of patients seen in Kakamega were young and impoverished, usually from rural areas. Most had less than two children. Although up to 67 per cent of the women had a primary school education, 87 per cent were unemployed.
These study findings are supported by another one, which carried out by the Kenya Tta National Hospital, which showed that up to 60 per cent of all gynecological emergencies were likewise, a result of unsafe abortions. Significantly, girls below 14 had also procured 53 per cent of the abortions treated there.
A third study, the Nyahururu District Hospital study in central Kenya also established that up to 87 per cent of all emergency gynecological admissions there were a result of complications from abortion.
A common point made in all three studies was that most patients reached the hospital late.
As a solution, the researchers say that the situation can only be addressed by providing stronger community-based healthcare and referral systems, and better transport infrastructure for rural areas.
As abortion is illegal in Kenya, many young women resort to back street abortions, usually in unhygienic circumstances.
Apart from causing death, such abortions can lead to life-long complications such as a perforated uterus, infections, ectopic pregnancies and infertility.