Provision of first-trimester medication abortion in 2019: Results from the Canadian abortion provider survey
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OBJECTIVE: To explore the Canadian first-trimester medication abortion (MA) workforce and their clinical care following the introduction of mifepristone in 2017, updated national clinical practice guidelines and government approval of nurse practitioners (NPs) as first-trimester MA providers. STUDY DESIGN: We conducted a national, self-administered, cross-sectional survey of abortion providers in 2019. Our bilingual (French/English) survey collected information on demographics, abortion number, and clinical care characteristics. The true number of abortion providers is unknown thus we cannot calculate a survey response rate. To maximize identification of possibly eligible respondents, we widely distributed the survey between July and December 2020 through health professional organizations, using a modified Dillman technique. We used descriptive statistics to characterize the workforce and clinical practices. RESULTS: Four-hundred-sixty-five clinicians responded, of whom 388 provided first-trimester MA. Physicians (n = 358) and NPs (n = 30) reported providing 13,429 first-trimester MAs in 2019 which represented 27.7% of all reported abortions in the survey. The majority of first-trimester MA respondents were primary care physicians (n = 245, 63.1%), had less than five years' experience (n = 223, 61.3%) and practiced outside of hospitals (n = 228, 66.5%). Forty-three percent (n = 165) practiced rurally, and 44.0% (n = 136) used telemedicine for some abortion care. Ninety-nine percent (n = 350) used a guideline-recommended mifepristone/misoprostol regimen while 14.5% (n = 51) sometimes used methotrexate. Patients most commonly received mifepristone/misoprostol at community pharmacies (median 100.0%; interquartile range 50.0%-100.0%). CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that there are many new first-trimester MA providers, an increase in the proportion of MAs since 2012 and a shift to primary care settings. Respondents widely adopted mifepristone. IMPLICATIONS STATEMENT: Our results highlight that, following mifepristone introduction, many new primary care practitioners started providing first-trimester medication abortion throughout Canada, including the first non-physicians. This increased access to abortion particularly in rural and underserved communities. These results could inform future directions in policy, guidelines, and abortion access initiatives.