Glancing at the past and course-setting for the future: lessons from the last decade of research on medication abortion in high-income countries

Annik M. Sorhaindo
2021 Reproductive Health  
Objective Although medication abortion has become more common in high-income countries, the procedure has not yet met early expectations for widening access to abortion. High-quality evidence can serve as a catalyst for changes in policy and practice. To direct research priorities, it is important to understand where quality evidence is concentrated and where gaps remain. High-income countries have developed a body of evidence that may have implications for the future of medication abortion.
more » ... cation abortion. This literature review assesses the characteristics and quality of published studies on medication abortion conducted in the last 10 years in high-income countries and indicates future areas for research to advance policy and practice, and broaden access. Study design A structured search for literature resulted in 207 included studies. A framework based upon the World Health Organization definition of sub-tasks for medication abortion was developed to categorize research by recognized stages of the medication abortion process. Using an iterative and inductive approach, additional sub-themes were created under each of these categories. Established quality assessment frameworks were drawn upon to gauge the internal and external validity of the included research. Results Studies in the US and the UK have dominated research on MA in high-income countries. The political and social contexts of these countries will have shaped of this body of research. The past decade of research has focused largely on clinical aspects of medication abortion. Conclusion Researchers should consider refocusing energies toward testing service delivery approaches demonstrating promise and prioritizing research that has broader generalizability and relevance outside of narrow clinical contexts. Plain English summary Although medication abortion is more commonly available worldwide, it is not being used as often as people thought it would be, particularly in high income countries. In order to encourage changes in policy and practice that would allow greater use, we need good quality evidence. If we can understand where we do not have enough research and where we have good amounts of research, we can determine where to invest energies in further studies. Many high-income countries have produced research on medication abortion that could influence policy and practice in similarly resourced contexts. I conducted a literature review to be able to understand the type and quality of research on medication abortion conducted in high-income countries in the past 10 years. I conducted the review in an organized way to make sure that the papers reviewed discussed studies that I thought would be important for answering this question. The literature review found 207 papers. Each of these papers were reviewed and organized them by theme. I also used existing methods to determinine the quality of each study. Most of the research came from the US and the UK. Furthermore, most of the research conducted in the past 10 years was focused on clinical studies of medication abortion. In future studies, researchers should focus more on new ways of providing medication abortion to women that offers greater access. Also, the studies should be designed so that the results have meaning for a broader group of people or situations beyond where the study was done.
doi:10.1186/s12978-021-01081-3 pmid:33557835 fatcat:ov6hu7wkq5du3pscraxk2wqita