Studying Accompaniment model Feasibility and Effectiveness (SAFE) Study: study protocol for a prospective observational cohort study of the effectiveness of self-managed medication abortion

BMJ Open. 2020 Nov 19;10(11):e036800. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-036800.


Introduction: A range of barriers deter or prevent people from accessing facility-based abortion care. As a result, people are obtaining and using abortifacient medications to end their pregnancies outside of the formal healthcare system, without clinical supervision. One model of self-managed abortion has come to be known as the 'accompaniment' model, in which grassroots organisations provide pregnant people with evidence-based counselling and support through the medication abortion process. Data are needed to understand the safety and effectiveness of this increasingly common model of abortion care.

Methods and analysis: This is a large, prospective, observational study in Argentina and Nigeria. All people who contact one of two accompaniment groups seeking information for their own self-managed medication abortion, are ages 13 years and older, have no contraindications for medication abortion, are within the gestational range supported by the group (up to 12 weeks' gestation for the primary outcome) and are willing to be contacted for follow-up will be recruited. Participants will respond to an interviewer-administered baseline survey at enrolment, and 1-4 additional surveys over 6 weeks to ascertain whether they obtain medications for abortion, dosing and route of administration of medications, physical and emotional experience of medication abortion self-management, and effectiveness and safety outcomes. Analyses will include estimates of the primary outcome: the proportion of participants that report a complete abortion without surgical intervention at last recorded follow-up; as well as secondary outcomes including a pseudo-experimental test of non-inferiority of the effectiveness of self-managed medication abortion as compared with clinical medication abortion.

Ethics and dissemination: We describe the ethical considerations and protections for this study, as well the creation of a study-specific Data Monitoring and Oversight Committee. We describe dissemination plans to ensure that study results are shared widely with all relevant audiences, particularly researchers, advocates, policymakers and clinicians.

Trial registration number: ISRCTN95769543.

Keywords: abortion; accompaniment; medication abortion; mifepristone; misoprostol; self-managed abortion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Abortion, Spontaneous*
  • Adolescent
  • Argentina
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nigeria
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ISRCTN95769543