Objective: To determine factors associated with delay of induced abortion into the second trimester of pregnancy.
Methods: Using audio computer-assisted self-interviewing, 398 women from 5 to 23 weeks of gestation at an urban hospital described steps and reasons that could have led to a delayed abortion. Multivariable logistic regression identified independent contributors to delay.
Results: Half of the 70-day difference between the average gestational durations in first- and second-trimester abortions is due to later suspicion of pregnancy and administration of a pregnancy test. Delays in suspecting and testing for pregnancy cumulatively caused 58% of second-trimester patients to miss the opportunity to have a first-trimester abortion. Women presenting in the second trimester experienced more delaying factors (3.2 versus 2.0, P < .001), with logistical delays occurring more frequently for these women (63.3% versus 30.4%, P < .001). Factors associated with second-trimester abortion in logistic regression were prior second-trimester abortion, delay in obtaining state insurance, difficulty locating a provider, initial referral elsewhere, and uncertainty about last menstrual period. Factors associated with decreased likelihood of second-trimester abortion were presence of nausea or vomiting, prior abortion, and contraception use.
Conclusion: Abortion delay results from myriad factors, many of them logistical, such as inappropriate or delayed referrals and delays in obtaining public insurance. Public health interventions could promote earlier recognition of pregnancy, more timely referrals, more easily obtainable public funding, and improved abortion access for indigent women. However, accessible second-trimester abortion services will remain necessary for the women who present late due to delayed recognition of and testing for pregnancy.
Level of evidence: II-2.