How Educated are Medical Providers on Medical Abortion?

In Knowledge of Medication Abortion Among Adolescent Medical Providers, published in The Journal of Adolescent Health, authors Mandy S. Coles, et al, sought to understand whether providers caring for adolescents have the knowledge to counsel accurately on medication abortion, a suitable option for many teenagers seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

An online survey related to medication abortion was administered to U.S. providers in the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.  Authors evaluated the knowledge of medication abortion by reported adolescent medicine fellowship training, and to compare responses to specific knowledge questions by medication abortion counseling.  They also examined the relationship between providers’ self-assessed and actual knowledge.

Authors surveyed 797 total providers.  About 25% of respondents incorrectly believed that medication abortion was not very safe, 40% misidentified that it was < 95% effective, and 32% did not select the correct maximum recommended gestational age (7–9 weeks).  However, providers had difficulty identifying that serious complications of medication abortion are rare, and those who counseled on medication abortion had more accurate information in all knowledge categories, except for expected outcomes.  Medication abortion knowledge did not differ by adolescent medicine fellowship completion. In total, only thirty two percent of those surveyed were identified as having “very good knowledge.”

The authors concluded that knowledge regarding medication abortion safety, effectiveness, expected outcomes, and complications is suboptimal even among adolescent medicine fellowship trained physicians.  In order to ensure pregnant teenagers receive accurate counseling on all options, adolescent medicine providers need better education on medication abortion.

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