Women's experiences of a telemedicine abortion service (up to 12 weeks) implemented during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: a qualitative evaluation

BJOG. 2021 Oct;128(11):1752-1761. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.16813. Epub 2021 Jul 27.


Objective: To explore the experiences of women in Scotland who accessed medical abortion at home up to 12 weeks' gestation, delivered via a telemedicine abortion service implemented in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, to identify areas for improvement and inform service provision.

Design: Qualitative interview study.

Setting: Abortion service in one National Health Service health board in Scotland.

Population or sample: Twenty women who accessed telemedicine abortion services and self-administered mifepristone and misoprostol at home up to 12 weeks' gestation.

Methods: Thematic analysis of semi-structured qualitative interviews, informed by the Framework analytic approach.

Main outcome measures: Women's experiences of accessing telemedicine for medical abortion at home, specifically: acceptability of the telephone consultation and remote support; views on no pre-abortion ultrasound scan; and self-administration of abortion medications at home.

Results: Novel study findings were three-fold: (1) participants valued the option of accessing abortion care via telemedicine and emphasised the benefits of providing a choice of telephone and in-person consultation to suit those with different life circumstances; (2) the quality of abortion care was enhanced by the telemedicine service in relation to access, comfort and flexibility, and ongoing telephone support; (3) participants described being comfortable with, and in some cases a preference for, not having an ultrasound scan.

Conclusions: This research demonstrates support for the continuation of telemedicine abortion services beyond the temporary arrangements in place during COVID-19, and lends weight to the argument that offering the option of telemedicine abortion care can enable women to access this essential health service. TWEETABLE ABSTRACT: #Telemedicine provision of medical #abortion at home up to 12 weeks' gestation is acceptable and highly valued by #women #Research #SRHR @nbw80 @doctorjjrw @jeniharden @cameronsharon @mrc_crh @edinuniusher.

Keywords: Health services research; qualitative research; teleconsultation/telehealth; termination of pregnancy; termination of pregnancy: medical; women’s experiences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal / administration & dosage*
  • Abortion, Induced / methods*
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology
  • Adult
  • COVID-19
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Mifepristone / administration & dosage
  • Misoprostol / administration & dosage
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative Research
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Scotland
  • Self Administration / psychology*
  • State Medicine
  • Telemedicine / methods*


  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal
  • Misoprostol
  • Mifepristone