Review article| Volume 88, ISSUE 3, P350-363, September 2013

A review of evidence for safe abortion care



      The provision of safe abortion services to women who need them has the potential to drastically reduce or eliminate maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion. The World Health Organization recently updated its evidence-based guidance for safe and effective clinical practices using data from systematic reviews of the literature.

      Materials and Methods

      Systematic reviews pertaining to the evidence for safe abortion services, from pre-abortion care, medical and surgical methods of abortion and post-abortion care were evaluated for relevant outcomes, primarily those relating to safety, effectiveness and women's preference.


      Sixteen systematic reviews were identified and evaluated. The available evidence does not support the use of pre-abortion ultrasound to increase safety. Routine use of cervical preparation with osmotic dilators, mifepristone or misoprostol after 14 weeks gestation reduces complications; at early gestational ages, surgical abortions have very few complications. Prophylactic antibiotics result in lower rates of post-surgical abortion infection. Pain medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories should be offered to women undergoing abortion procedures; acetaminophen, however, is not effective in reducing pain. Women who are eligible should be offered a choice between surgical (vacuum aspiration or dilation and evacuation) and medical methods (mifepristone and misoprostol) of abortion when possible. Modern methods of contraception can be safely initiated immediately following abortion procedures.


      Evidence-based guidelines assist health care providers and policymakers to utilize the best data available to provide safe abortion care and prevent the millions of deaths and disabilities that result from unsafe abortion.


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