FSRH statement: Home use of abortion medicines is safe, more accessible and preferred by women, new national study shows
Date: 19 Feb 2021
Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) welcomes a new study analysing early medical abortions in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has found that allowing women to have abortions at home has provided a safe, effective and more accessible service.
In March 2020, the Government amended legislation to enable women to access early medical abortions at home temporarily. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, MSI Reproductive Choices and National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service conducted the study to understand how this change impacted the provision of abortion care.
The key findings from the study are:
- Waiting times between initial consultation and treatment improved from 10.7 days to 6.5 days.
- Women received care at an earlier stage in their pregnancy, which significantly reduced the duration of the pregnancy at the time of the abortion.
- The effectiveness of the treatment remained the same for abortions carried out through the traditional service and the telemedicine service.
- There were no cases of significant infection requiring hospital admission or major surgery. Contrary to misleading claims, no women have died from having an early medical abortion at home.
- 80 per cent of women reported that telemedicine was their preferred option and that they would choose it in the future.
Dr Tracey Masters, abortion care lead at the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
'The data shows that telemedicine has enabled thousands of women to access safer abortion care during a time when travel and face-to-face consultations needed to be severely restricted due to risk of COVID-19 infection.
'I truly hope the option for telemedicine will continue beyond the restrictions because in my clinic we have experienced first-hand the benefits of telemedicine for abortion care. Many of our patients have been able to discuss their options and obtain treatment in a timely manner following a simple remote consultation. Patients really value and appreciate that they are getting high-quality care without the need to attend a clinic (unless there is a genuine need for in-person investigation or care).
'Allowing home use of the first abortion pill, mifepristone, for early medical abortion enhances women’s options - and makes this safe and effective healthcare treatment easier to obtain.
'We urge the Government to allow home use of mifepristone and telemedicine for early medical abortion on a permanent basis, to increase both the safety and the quality of care.'
For further information please contact: Camila Azevedo, FSRH External Affairs Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org / 07379408587
Notes to Editors
- Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, anyone seeking an abortion needed to attend a healthcare facility in-person to receive an ultrasound scan and to take the first abortion medication, mifepristone. Under the new guidelines, consultations are encouraged to take place by telephone or video call, medication can be taken at home and an ultrasound scan is only required if clinically necessary.
- For this study, researchers analysed the outcomes of more than 50,000 early medical abortions that took place in England, Scotland and Wales between January and June 2020, both before and after the new legislation was introduced
- You can access the study ‘Effectiveness, safety and acceptability of no-test medical abortion provided via telemedicine: a national cohort study’ authored by Aiken, A., Lohr, P., Lord, J., Ghosh, N., Starling, J., published by BJOG here.
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ.