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Pain during medical abortion in early pregnancy in teenage and adult women.

  • Kemppainen, Venla1
  • Mentula, Maarit1
  • Palkama, Vilja2
  • Heikinheimo, Oskari1
  • 1 The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland. , (Finland)
  • 2 The Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland. , (Finland)
Published Article
Acta Obstetricia Et Gynecologica Scandinavica
Wiley (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2020
DOI: 10.1111/aogs.13920
PMID: 32441319


Women experience pain during medical abortion, yet optimal pain management remains unclear. We studied the pain experience and need of analgesics during early medical abortion (≤63 days of gestation) among teenage and adult women. We also assessed predictive factors of severe pain. We recruited 140 primigravid women: 60 teenagers and 80 adult women aged between 25 and 35 years old. The group of teenagers included 19 women under the age of 18 years old (minors). The abortion was performed with mifepristone (200 mg) followed by vaginal misoprostol (800 μg), mainly self-administered at home for adults. Minors were hospitalized during misoprostol administration. Pain medication consisted of ibuprofen 600 mg and paracetamol 1000 mg, first doses taken simultaneously with misoprostol and repeated, if needed, up to three times daily. Additional opiates (mainly tramadol or oxycodone) were administered at hospital if needed. Pain was measured using the visual analogue scale (VAS, 0-100 mm). The maximal pain VAS (median, interquartile range) was 75 (54-91). Of all the women, 57.7% experienced severe pain (VAS ≥70) during abortion care and 93.5% of women needed additional analgesics in addition to prophylactic pain medication. Teenagers needed additional analgesics more often than adults (5 [3-8] vs 3 [2-6] times, P = .021); 38.0% of all teenagers (64.7% of the minors) received additional opiates compared with 7.9% in adult women. Severe pain (VAS ≥70) was associated with history of dysmenorrhea (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.60 [95% confidence interval [CI] 1.21-5.59, P = .014]), anxiety at baseline (2.64 [1.03-6.77], P = .044) and emesis during abortion (5.24 [2.38-11.57], P < .001). Hospital administration of misoprostol did not lower the risk for severe pain experience (OR 0.84 [95% CI 0.34-2.05], P = .694). Satisfaction with care was high in study population (median VAS 91 [interquartile range 79-97]) and was not associated with the use of narcotic analgesic or place of misoprostol administration. Pain intensity was high both in teenage and adult women undergoing medical abortion, yet satisfaction on care was high. More effective analgesics than ibuprofen and paracetamol should be offered to all women undergoing early medical abortion, especially to those with history of dysmenorrhea. Also, routine use of antiemetics might be advisable. © 2020 The Authors. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology (NFOG).

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