Background: Unsafe abortion causes an estimated 43 000 maternal deaths each year. Telemedicine abortion services today abridge the lack of access to safe abortion in many countries. We aimed to evaluate the safety and acceptability of abortion through telemedicine at above nine gestational weeks (gw).
Methods: A retrospective cohort study comparing self-reported adverse outcomes among women in Poland at ≤ and > 9 gw who requested abortion through the telemedical service Women on Web between June 1st and December 31st 2016, confirmed intake and provided follow-up (n=615).
Results: Among women ≤ and > 9 gw respectively, 3.3% vs 11.7% went to hospital within 0-1 days of the abortion for complaints related to the procedure (AOR 3.82, 95% CI 1.90-7.69). In a stratified analysis the corresponding rate in the highest gestational age group, 11w0d-14w2d, was 22.5% (AOR 9.20, 95% CI 3.58-23.60). Among women ≤ and > 9 gw respectively, the rate of surgical evacuation post-abortion was 12.5% vs 22.6% (AOR 2.04, 95% CI 1.18-3.32), the rate of overall medical interventions post-abortion was 18.3% vs 29.0% (AOR 1.84, 95% CI 1.13-3.00), the rate of heavy bleeding was 6.8% vs 10.1% (AOR 1.65, 95% CI 0.90-3.04), the rate of low satisfaction was 2.4% vs 1.6% (AOR 0.69, 95% CI 0.14-3.36), the rate of bleeding more than expected was 45.6% vs 57.8% (AOR 1.26, 95% CI 0.78-2.02), and the rate of pain more than expected was 35.6% vs 38.8% (AOR 1.11, 95% CI 0.71-1.71).
Interpretation: Medical abortion through telemedicine above nine gw is associated with a higher rate of hospital visits for complaints in the days following the abortion compared to abortion at or below nine gw but not with a higher risk of heavy bleeding. It is associated with an increased risk of post-abortion treatment and intervention but not with a lower rate of satisfaction or met expectations.