Experiences of abortion: a narrative review of qualitative studies

BMC Health Serv Res. 2008 Jul 17;8:150. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-8-150.


Background: Although abortion or termination of pregnancy (TOP) has become an increasingly normalized component of women's health care over the past forty years, insufficient attention has been paid to women's experiences of surgical or medical methods of TOP.

Objective: To undertake a narrative review of qualitative studies of women's experiences of TOP and their perspectives on surgical or medical methods.

Methods: Keyword searches of Medline, CINAHL, ISI, and IBSS databases. Manual searches of other relevant journals and reference lists of primary articles.

Results: Qualitative studies (n = 18) on women's experiences of abortion were identified. Analysis of the results of studies reviewed revealed three main themes: experiential factors that promote or inhibit the choice to seek TOP; experiences of TOP; and experiential aspects of the environment in which TOP takes place.

Conclusion: Women's choices about TOP are mainly pragmatic ones that are related to negotiating finite personal and family and emotional resources. Women who are well informed and supported in their choices experience good psychosocial outcomes from TOP. Home TOP using mifepristone appears attractive to women who are concerned about professionals' negative attitudes and lack of privacy in formal healthcare settings but also leads to concerns about management and safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents
  • Abortion, Induced / methods
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Narration
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Environment


  • Abortifacient Agents

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN07823656