This qualitative study was conducted in May–June 2010 with women using post-abortion care (PAC) services provided by the Marie Stopes Society in Pakistan during the six month period preceding the study, more than 70% of whom had been referred to the clinics by reproductive health volunteers (RHVs). The aim of the study was to establish the socio-demographic profile of clients, determine their preferred method of treatment, explore their perceptions of the barriers to accessing post-abortion services and to understand the challenges faced by RHVs. The sample women were selected from six randomly selected districts of Sindh and Punjab. Eight focus group discussions were conducted with PAC clients and fifteen in-depth interviews with RHVs. In addition, a quantitative exit interview questionnaire was administered to 76 clients. Medical, rather than surgical, treatment for incomplete and unsafe abortions was preferred because it was perceived to ‘cause less pain’, was ‘easy to employ’ and ‘having fewer complications’. Household economics influence women's decision-making on seeking post-abortion care. Other restraining factors include objection by husbands and in-laws, restrictions on female mobility, the views of religious clerics and a lack of transport. The involvement of all stakeholders could secure social approval and acceptance of the provision of safe post-abortion care services in Pakistan, and improve the quality of family planning services to the women who want to space their pregnancies.
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