Abortion Aftercare Instructions in the United States: A Content Analysis of Patient Handouts

Zoey Thill, Dyanna Charles, Ariana H. Bennett, Allison Paul, Marji Gold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: At the clinical visit for abortion care, patients typically receive a handout with information about what to expect and how to care for themselves after the abortion. Published guidelines give little to no guidance regarding the content of postabortion instructions. Methods: We collected aftercare instruction handouts for first trimester procedural and medication abortion from abortion clinics throughout the United States. Instructions were coded and analyzed using conventional content analysis. Results: Of the 84 unique aftercare handouts we received, most included information about symptoms to expect (included in 98% of procedural handouts, 97% of medication handouts), how to manage symptoms (included in 100% of procedural handouts, 100% of medication handouts), and specific behaviors to avoid (included in 94% of procedural handouts, 66% of medication handouts). The most common behavioral avoidance instructions were “pelvic rest” (included in 90% of procedural handouts, 63% of medication handouts), avoiding strenuous activity (included in 61% of procedural handouts, 29% of medication handouts), and avoiding submersion in water (included in 41% of procedural handouts, 26% of medication handouts). Handouts varied with regard to the extent and duration of specific recommendations. They also varied in tone, word choice, and other characteristics. Conclusions: There exists a wide range of abortion aftercare instructions throughout the United States. Inconsistency among instructions may reflect a lack of published, evidence-based clinical guidelines. Standardizing aftercare instruction handouts based on patient-oriented evidence could improve patient experience after abortion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-476
Number of pages7
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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