Online Program

Understanding women's experiences with misoprostol for self-induced abortion in Peru

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 2:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

Diana Santana, MA, Planned Parenthood Global, Latin America Region, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Miami, FL
Abortion in Peru is legally restricted except to save the woman's life or health, and then only if provided by a trained medical doctor. Pressure from conservative groups and general misinformation about the availability of therapeutic abortion keeps even these services unavailable. Within this panorama exists misoprostol, a gastric-ulcer drug used increasingly to induce an abortion in relative privacy and limiting need for medical intervention. The purpose of this research was to identify and understand how women described their experiences with misoprostol, within a legally and socially restrictive context. The findings are based on a convenience sample of interviews conducted in 2009 of 19 Peruvian women ranging in age from 17 – 43 and living in one of four urban or peri-urban areas who had used misoprostol to self-induce their abortions. Stigma related to unplanned pregnancy is often resolved through abortion – in itself stigmatized due to social and legal restrictions. Shame prevented many women from sharing their experiences with friends and family members. They were reluctant to access formal health services due to costs, stigma, and fear of being reported to the authorities. Misoprostol provided safer, more affordable alternative to terminate an unplanned pregnancy or provide legitimate access to the medical establishment for treatment of incomplete abortion. Restricting abortion makes it unsafe, especially for poor women. These findings confirm the need for increased information and access to effective contraceptive methods and sexuality education, training for medical professionals, changes in laws and policies, and increased access to safe abortion care.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Discuss women’s experiences using misoprostol to induce abortion Identify the impact of social and legal restrictions to abortion on women’s health Identify the effects of shame on women’s experience with health care

Keyword(s): Abortion, International Reproductive Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a background in program management and applied research, focusing on gender, sexuality, reproductive health, family planning, HIV and AIDS. I have a Master’s degree in Anthropology and have carried out both qualitative and quantitative research around sexual and reproductive health from an anthropological perspective. I have supported sexual and reproductive health programming throughout Latin America since 2006, and currently serve as the Planned Parenthood Global Country Team Leader for Peru.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.