Objective: To evaluate whether conducting a bimanual examination prior to medication abortion (MAB) provision results in meaningful changes in gestational age (GA) assessment after patient-reported last menstrual period (LMP) in Nepal.
Study design: Women ages 16-45 (n=660) seeking MAB at twelve participating pharmacies and government health facilities, between October 2014 and September 2015, self-reported LMP. Trained auxiliary nurse midwives assessed GA using a bimanual exam after recording LMP. We compared GA assessments as measured via patient-reported LMP alone versus via LMP plus bimanual exam.
Results: Overall, 660 women (326 at pharmacies, 334 at health facilities) presented for MAB, and 95% were able to provide an LMP. Overall agreement between LMP alone and LMP with bimanual exam was 99.3%. If LMP alone had been used without bimanual exam, fewer than one in 200 women would have been given MAB beyond the legal gestational limit. Among the three women who were ≤63 days by LMP but >63 days by bimanual exam, only one would have received MAB beyond 70 days gestation. Fewer than one in 600 women would not have received MAB care when eligible by adding a bimanual exam.
Conclusion: There was high agreement between LMP alone and LMP plus bimanual exam. Routine bimanual exam may not be essential for safe and effective MAB care for women who are able to report an LMP. Removing the bimanual exam requirement could decrease barriers to provision outside of currently approved clinical settings and allow for expanded abortion access through provision by providers without bimanual exam training or facilities.
Implications: Routine bimanual exams may not be essential for safe medication abortion provision by trained clinicians in pharmacies and health facilities in low resource settings like Nepal.
Keywords: Bimanual exam; Gestational age; Last menstrual period; Medication abortion; Mifepristone.
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