Perspectives of midwives and doctors on adolescent sexuality and abortion care in Vietnam

Marie Klingberg-Allvin, Nguyen Thu Nga, Anna-Berit Ransjö-Arvidson, Annika Johansson
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 2006, 34 (4): 414-21

BACKGROUND: Vietnam has one of the highest abortion rates in the world and adolescent abortions are thought to constitute at least one-third of all cases. Lack of balanced reproductive health information and services to adolescents and negative social attitudes towards adolescent sexuality are contributing factors to the high abortion rates. Health providers are important in guiding and counselling adolescents on how to protect their reproductive health. There is a lack of studies on health providers' perspectives on their work in adolescent reproductive health care.

AIM: To explore the perspectives of midwives and doctors on adolescent sexuality and abortion, and what they considered to be quality abortion care for adolescents and the barriers to it, as well as to their own training needs.

METHODS: Observations of care in abortion clinics and focus-group discussions (FGD) were used to collect data. Doctors and midwives from three healthcare facilities in Quang Ninh province in Northern Vietnam participated in a total of eight FGDs. Data were analysed using latent content analysis.

FINDINGS: Major barriers identified for quality abortion care were of technical and managerial nature. Participants considered that counselling unmarried clients in connection with abortion should focus on warning against the risks and dangers of abortion and pre-marital sexual relations, which they strongly disapproved of. However, they also expressed a pragmatic and caring attitude towards the unmarried girls and couples coming for abortion. Adolescent sexuality and abortion are morally sensitive issues in the Vietnamese culture. The contradictions between cultural norms and the reality facing health providers while counselling unmarried adolescents need to be addressed in education and training programmes.

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