Social connectedness and supported self-management of early medication abortion in the UK: experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic and learning for the future

Hoggart, Lesley; Purcell, Carrie; Bloomer, Fiona; Newton, Victoria and Oluseye, Ayomide (2023). Social connectedness and supported self-management of early medication abortion in the UK: experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic and learning for the future. Culture, Health & Sexuality (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2023.2258189

Abstract

Medication abortion has been established globally as safe and effective. This modality has increased accessibility and the opportunity to centre individual autonomy at the heart of abortion care, by facilitating self-managed abortion. Previous research has shown how self-managed abortion is beneficial in myriad settings ranging from problematic to (relatively) unproblematic contexts of access. In this paper we explore the relationship between self-management and sources of support (including health professionals, family, and friends); as well as considering issues of reproductive control and autonomy. Drawing on qualitative, experience-centred interviews, we utilise the concept of social connectedness to examine how supported self-managed abortion was experienced in the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, self-management was welcomed, with participants speaking positively about managing their own abortion at home. However, a sense of connectedness was crucial in helping participants deal with difficult experiences; and functioned to support individual autonomy in self-care. This paper is the first to examine factors of connection, support, and isolation, as experienced by those undergoing self-managed abortion in the UK in detail. Our research suggests a continued need to advocate for high quality support for self-managed abortion, as well as for choice of abortion method, to support patient-centered care.

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