Can women accurately assess the outcome of medical abortion based on symptoms alone?

Andrea V. Jackson, Ila Dayananda, Jennifer M. Fortin, Garrett Fitzmaurice, Alisa B. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate whether women undergoing medical abortion can accurately assess abortion outcome based on symptoms alone. Our secondary aim was to identify predictors of medical abortion failure. Study Design: We conducted a case-control study of women undergoing medical abortion from January 1, 2004, to December 31, 2005, who were 63 days' gestation or less and received 200 mg mifepristone followed by 800 mcg of vaginal misoprostol 6-72 h later. Cases were defined as women who required uterine evacuation for a retained gestational sac or ongoing pregnancy. Separate analyses were conducted for the subset of cases with ongoing pregnancies. Controls were defined as women who successfully expelled the pregnancy without uterine evacuation. Results: During the study period, 53 women had a retained gestational sac (N=26) or ongoing pregnancy (N=27), and a total of 53 controls were selected, matched by site and date of procedure. Case subjects were more likely than controls to report minimal vaginal bleeding and ongoing pregnancy symptoms and to express doubt that they expelled the pregnancy. When predictive modeling was performed, ongoing pregnancy symptoms, minimal bleeding and gestational age as determined by ultrasound measurement of gestational sac or crown-rump length accurately identified only 68% of medical abortion failures. We also found that the odds of medical abortion failure decreased progressively from approximately 4 to 7 weeks' gestational age, was lowest at approximately 7 weeks and increased from 7 to 9 weeks' gestation. Conclusion: Patient symptomatology and self-assessment of complete abortion alone are moderately useful in identifying medical abortion failure. An objective measure of complete abortion, such as a pregnancy test, is still required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-197
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Failure
  • Medical abortion
  • Mifepristone
  • Misoprostol
  • Predict
  • Symptoms


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