Original research article| Volume 99, ISSUE 1, P10-15, January 2019

First-trimester aspiration abortion practices: a survey of United States abortion providers



      To assess whether first-trimester aspiration abortion practices of US providers agree with evidence-based policy guidelines.

      Study design

      We sent surveys by mail or electronically to all abortion facilities in the United States identified via professional networks and websites from June through December 2013. Administrators reported on the volume of procedures performed at their site(s) through 13 weeks 6 days' gestation and on clinic services. Clinicians reported on personal demographic characteristics and abortion practices. We reviewed guidelines from key US professional organizations to determine how well reported practices aligned with available recommendations and the extent to which guidelines have changed since the time of the survey.


      We identified 703 clinical sites in the United States; 383 (54%) sites responded, 256 of which offer first-trimester aspiration abortions. Most providers identified as obstetrician-gynecologists (74%) and female (64%); 52% were less than 50 years old compared to 36% in 2002. Overall, reported practices follow evidence-based guidelines, including routine administration of periprocedure antibiotics (85%), use of misoprostol for cervical ripening in the late first trimester (94%), pain management practices, and same-day contraception provision (98%) including long-acting devices (76%). Less evidence-based practices include routine preprocedure ultrasound (99%), not providing abortion before 5 weeks' gestation (66%), restrictive fasting policies, and prolonged and postprocedure antibiotic provision.


      Overall, the first-trimester aspiration abortion practices revealed in our survey agree with professional evidence-based policy guidelines, though some related to preprocedure ultrasound use, very early abortion provision, preanesthesia fasting protocols, and antibiotic regimens deserve attention.


      In this third cross-sectional survey of US abortion practices (prior surveys 1997 and 2002), first-trimester aspiration abortion providers are younger than before, reflecting an improvement in the “graying” of the abortion provider workforce. Research and education are needed to further improve evidence-based practice in abortion care.


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