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Following self-managed abortion (SMA), or a pregnancy termination attempt outside of the formal health system, some patients may seek care in an emergency department. Information about provider experiences treating these patients in hospital settings on the Texas-Mexico border is lacking.


The study team conducted semi-structured interviews with physicians, advanced practice clinicians, and nurses who had experience with patients presenting with early pregnancy complications in emergency and/or labor and delivery departments in five hospitals near the Texas-Mexico border. Interview questions focused on respondents’ roles at the hospital, knowledge of abortion services and laws, perspectives on SMA trends, experiences treating patients presenting after SMA, and potential gaps in training related to abortion. Researchers conducted interviews in person between October 2017 and January 2018, and analyzed transcripts using a thematic analysis approach.


Most of the 54 participants interviewed said that the care provided to SMA patients was, and should be, the same as for patients presenting after miscarriage. The majority had treated a patient they suspected or confirmed had attempted SMA; typically, these cases required only expectant management and confirmation of pregnancy termination, or treatment for incomplete abortion. In rare cases, further clinical intervention was required. Many providers lacked clinical and legal knowledge about abortion, including local resources available.


Treatment provided to SMA patients is similar to that provided to patients presenting after early pregnancy loss. Lack of provider knowledge about abortion and SMA, despite their involvement with SMA patients, highlights a need for improved training.


Copyright © 2021, The Author(s)

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



Academic Level


Mentor/PI Department

Obstetrics and Gynecology



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