Effectiveness of self-managed medication abortion between 9 and 16 weeks of gestation

August 2023

Effectiveness of self-managed medication abortion between 9 and 16 weeks of gestation

Moseson H, Jayaweera R, Egwuatu I, Grosso B, Kristianingrum IA, Nmezi S; Zurbriggen R, Chiara B; Motana R, Gerdts C. Obstetrics & Gynecology. August 2023. DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000005266

To evaluate abortion completion after self-managed medication abortion in pregnancies at or beyond 9 weeks of gestation.

We conducted a prospective observational cohort study in which we recruited callers to three abortion-accompaniment groups in Argentina, Nigeria, and Southeast Asia who were initiating a self-managed medication abortion. Participants completed a baseline survey over the phone before taking pills and then two follow-up phone surveys 1 and 3 weeks after taking pills. The primary outcome was abortion completion; secondary outcomes included physical experiences and health care seeking and treatment.

Between 2019 and 2020, we enrolled 1,352 participants, 19.5% (264/1,352) of whom self-managed a medication abortion at 9 or more weeks of gestation: 75.0% (198/264) at 9–11 weeks, 19.3% (51/264) at 12–14 weeks, and 5.7% (15/264) at 15–22 weeks. Participants were aged 26 years on average (SD 5.6 years); 56.4% (149/264) used the combined regimen (mifepristone+misoprostol), and 43.6% (115/264) used misoprostol only. At the last follow-up, 89.4% (236/264) had a complete abortion without procedural intervention, 5.3% (14/264) had a complete abortion with manual vacuum aspiration or dilation and curettage procedure, 4.9% (13/264) had an incomplete abortion, and 0.4% (1/264) participants did not report an abortion outcome. Some participants (23.5%, 62/264) sought health care during or after the self-managed medication abortion, most commonly to confirm completion (15.9%, 42/264); 9.1% (24/264) needed further medical intervention (procedural evacuation, antibiotics, additional misoprostol, intravenous fluids, blood transfusion, or overnight stay in the facility). Those who were 12 or more weeks pregnant were more likely to seek care at a clinic or hospital than those who were 9–11 weeks pregnant (adjusted relative risk 1.62, 95% CI 1.3–2.1).

People who self-managed an abortion with medication between 9 and 16 weeks of gestation had high levels of abortion completion and accessed health care to confirm completion or to treat potential complications.