How Effective And Safe Is Medical Abortion Via Online Telemedicine?

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Abortion-related laws vary from one country to the other. Approximately, a quarter of the world’s population resides in nations that have extremely strict abortion laws. Women in these countries are often forced to resort to unsafe methods to end their unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.

It is estimated that roughly 43,000 women succumb to death every year due to inaccessibility to legal and safe abortion practices and services. However, a new study deems telemedicine service that are deployed for abortions to be both effective and safe.

What Is Telemedicine Service?

Telemedicine is an online- or telephone-based medical service that provides necessary drug information to the patient through email or instant messaging support. Women residing in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland widely use this service as laws pertaining to abortion in these nations are very strict.

Abortions in these two states are allowed only to save a woman’s life or her physical or mental health. Women from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland who wish to undergo an abortion have few options at their disposal to end the pregnancy.

Those who have necessary financial means can travel out of the country to get the abortion done at a clinic. Women who cannot travel abroad to get an abortion have to terminate the pregnancy through unsafe and illegal methods, or continue the unwanted pregnancy.

Although thousands of women in Ireland use the telemedicine service, little is known about the effects and outcomes of the drugs used. To have an in-depth understanding of the same, researchers from the University of Texas, University of Princeton, and the non-profit Women on Web undertook a population-based study on women hailing from Ireland. The study aimed to explore the negative effects and self-reported outcomes post the abortions, which were carried outside the traditional healthcare setup.

Telemedicine A Safe Abortion Option: Study And Results

The study was based on the data collected from WoW, a telemedicine service, which gives access to medicines that are used for inducing abortion. WoW provides abortion services to women who come from countries with strict abortion laws, or places where safe abortion methods are limited.

The study analyzed 1,000 women residing in Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland who underwent abortion using WoW’s services between January 2010 and December 2012. These women received 1,200 μg misoprostol and 200 mg mifepristone after filling out an online consultation form.

During the course of the study, the researchers found that 78 percent of those observed reported being less than seven weeks pregnant. Nearly 22 percent women were seven to nine weeks pregnant at the time they requested online consultation. Most women involved in the study — 94.7 percent to be specific —reported successful pregnancy termination with the help of the drugs WoW provided. Only 4.5 percent women required surgical intervention.

The adverse effects of the drugs were also found to be low with only 7 women out of 1,000 receiving a blood transfusion and 26 women receiving antibiotics. The researchers feel that self-sourced medication is a better and safer option for abortion vis-à-vis unsafe and illegal methods women adopt to end an unwanted pregnancy.

“Self sourced medical abortion using online telemedicine can be highly effective, and outcomes compare favourably with in clinic protocols” the authors wrote in the study.

The study’ findings have been published in the BMJ on Tuesday, May 16.

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