May 2009

Cost-effectiveness analysis of alternative first-trimester pregnancy termination strategies in Mexico City

Hu D, Grossman D, Levin C, Blanchard K, Goldie SJ. Cost-effectiveness analysis of alternative first-trimester pregnancy termination strategies in Mexico City. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2009 May;116(6):768-79

Objective: To assess the comparative health and economic outcomes associated with three alternative first-trimester abortion techniques in Mexico City and to examine the policy implications of increasing access to safe abortion modalities within a restrictive setting.

Design: Cost-effectiveness analysis.

Setting: Mexico City.

Population: Reproductive-aged women with unintended pregnancy seeking first-trimester abortion.

Methods: Synthesising the best available data, a computer-based model simulates induced abortion and its potential complications and is used to assess the cost-effectiveness of alternative safe modalities for first-trimester pregnancy termination: (1) hospital-based dilatation and curettage (D&C), (2) hospital-based manual vacuum aspiration (MVA), (3) clinic-based MVA and (4) medical abortion using vaginal misoprostol.

Main Outcome Measures: Number of complications, lifetime costs, life expectancy, quality-adjusted life expectancy.

Results: In comparison to the magnitude of health gains associated with all safe abortion modalities, the relative differences between strategies were more pronounced in terms of their economic costs. Assuming all options were equally available, clinic-based MVA was the least costly and most effective. Medical abortion with misoprostol provided comparable benefits to D&C, but cost substantially less. Enhanced access to safe abortion was always more influential than shifting between safe abortion modalities.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that the provision of safe abortion is cost-effective and will result in reduced complications, decreased mortality and substantial cost savings compared with unsafe abortion. In Mexico City, shifting from a practice of hospital-based D&C to clinic-based MVA and enhancing access to medical abortion will have the best chance to minimise abortion-related morbidity and mortality.