USA – Exploring potential interest in “missed period pills” in two US states

by Wendy R Sheldon, Meighan Mary, Lisa Harris, Katherine Starr, Beverly Winikoff

Contraception 8 September 2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.contraception.2020.08.014

Since its inception in 2003, Gynuity Health Projects has viewed mifepristone/misoprostol abortion as a revolutionary technology with the potential to increase autonomy and choice in the reproductive realm. Their aim has been to contribute to its availability in every way. In their December 2020 newsletter, they reflect on and report on their work of increasing access to medical abortion.

For example, they recently published a study of mifepristone and misoprostol for treatment of delayed menses without prior pregnancy confirmation, which they call “missed period pills”. Used in this way, the pills would terminate a pregnancy if one is present, but those using the method could do so without knowing if they had been pregnant. The main aim of the study was to explore potential interest in “missed period pills” in the United States.

They conducted the study in two states: one in the northeast with no major abortion restrictions; and one in the mid-west with multiple, major abortion restrictions. They enrolled 678 people across nine health centres and found interest was greatest among the 70% who would be unhappy if they were pregnant. Key reasons for interest were to prevent, avoid or terminate pregnancy; and psychological or emotional benefits, including management of abortion stigma.

Their findings suggest that some people do not desire pregnancy confirmation before taking a medication that might disrupt a pregnancy. As a result, if “missed period pills” were an option in the United States, demand might be substantial and wide-ranging across demographic groups. In light of their findings, they say, an important next step is to assess the feasibility, acceptability and use of an actual “missed period pills” service.