January 2018

A harm-reduction model of abortion counseling about misoprostol use in Peru with telephone and in-person follow-up: A cohort study

Grossman D, Baum S, Andjelic D, Tatum C, Torres G, Fuentes L, Friedman J. A harm-reduction model of abortion counseling about misoprostol use in Peru with telephone and in-person follow-up: A cohort study. PLOS One. 2018 Jan 10. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0189195

Background: In Peru, abortion is legal only to preserve the life and health of the woman. A non-profit clinic system in Peru implemented a harm-reduction model for women with unwanted pregnancy that included pre-abortion care with instructions about misoprostol use and post-abortion care; they started offering telephone follow-up for clients in 2011. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the harm-reduction model, and to compare outcomes by type of follow-up obtained.

Methods: Between January 2012 and March 2013, 500 adult women seeking harm-reduction services were recruited into the study. Telephone surveys were conducted approximately four weeks after their initial harm-reduction counseling session with 262 women (response rate 52%); 9 participants were excluded. The survey focused on whether women pursued an abortion, and if so, what their experience was. Demographic and clinical data were also extracted from clinic records.

Results: Eighty-six percent of participants took misoprostol; among those taking misoprostol, 89% reported a complete abortion at the time of the survey. Twenty-two percent obtained an aspiration after taking misoprostol and 8% self-reported adverse events including hemorrhage without transfusion, infection, or severe pain. Among women who took misoprostol, 46% reported receiving in-person follow-up (in some cases both telephone and in-person), 34% received telephone only, and 20% did not report receiving any form of follow-up. Those who had in-person follow-up with the counselor were most likely to report a complete abortion (<0.001). Satisfaction with both types of follow-up was very high, with 81%-89% reporting being very satisfied.

Conclusions: Liberalization of restrictive abortion laws is associated with improvements in health outcomes, but the process of legal reform is often lengthy. In the interim, giving women information about evidence-based regimens of misoprostol, as well as offering a range of follow-up options to ensure high quality post-abortion care, may reduce the risks associated with unsafe abortion.