New study leads to improvement in complications from pregnancy loss 

Dr Suzanne Belton's research has greatly improved post-abortion care available to Burmese and Thai women. 

A study by Australian researchers at a Thai hospital has greatly improved post-abortion care available to Burmese and Thai women.

Dr Suzanne Belton, of Charles Darwin University’s Graduate School for Health Practice, and Dr Bhensri Naemiratch, of Victoria University’s Australian Community Centre for Diabetes, conducted an operations research study at Mae Sot General Hospital in Thailand. They designed, analysed and reported on the outcomes in collaboration with Burmese refugees and Thai public health staff.

With maternal mortality killing thousands of young women in developing countries each year, and unsafe abortion contributing to at least 13 per cent of the deaths, Dr Belton said it was hard to overstate the importance of the study.

“Women face multiple barriers in managing their fertility and use traditional techniques often with the help of lay midwives,” she said.

“This project improved the standards of care given to women once they were admitted to hospital and improved the quality of treatment and increased the uptake of family planning methods.”

Evidence-based treatments and culturally appropriate information, counselling and referrals increased in the public hospital during the intervention study.

Dr Naemiratch noted the challenges in working across cultures.

“We noticed that with the Thai staff not only was there an improvement in clinical technical skills, but cultural confusions and prejudices against Burmese women also decreased,” she said.

“The Thai staff were better able to understand the difficult situation of the patients.”

Dr Belton said some of the Burmese cross-cultural staff produced a low literacy booklet which aimed to give women health promotion messages to address the problem of sickness and death associated with backyard abortions.

“The messages encourage women to go to hospital earlier if they are experiencing heavy blood loss or infection.”

The research will be presented in Bangkok in January 2010 at the 1st Asia-Pacific Congress on Women’s Health and Unsafe Abortion.

The study was one of the Safe Abortion Action Fund projects funded by the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London.