SELF-MANAGED ABORTION – Self-management of medical abortion: a qualitative evidence synthesis

by Megan Wainwright, Christopher J Colvin, Alison Swartz, Natalie Leon

Reproductive Health Matters 2016;24(47):155-67 (Open access)


Medical abortion is a method of pregnancy termination that by its nature enables more active involvement of women in the process of managing, and sometimes even administering the medications for, their abortions. This qualitative evidence synthesis reviewed the global evidence on experiences with, preferences for, and concerns about greater self-management of medical abortion with lesser health professional involvement. We focused on qualitative research from multiple perspectives on women’s experiences of self-management of first trimester medical abortion (< 12 weeks gestation). We included research from both legal and legally restricted contexts whether medical abortion was accessed through formal or informal systems. A review team of four identified 36 studies meeting inclusion criteria, extracted data from these studies, and synthesized review findings. Review findings were organized under the following themes: general perceptions of self-management, preparation for self-management, logistical considerations, issues of choice and control, and meaning and experience. The synthesis highlights that the qualitative evidence base is still small, but that the available evidence points to the overall acceptability of self-administration of medical abortion. We highlight particular considerations when offering self-management options, and identify key areas for future research. Further qualitative research is needed to strengthen this important evidence base.

[Note: The findings and discussion sections of this paper are valuable and the fact that 36 studies from many different countries are reviewed gives a lot of validity to what is reported.]