Sexual and Reproductive Health Literacy, Misoprostol Knowledge and Use of Medication Abortion in Lagos State, Nigeria: A Mixed Methods Study

Heini Väisänen, Institut national d’études démographiques (INED) Ann M. Moore, Guttmacher Institute Onikepe Owolabi, Guttmacher Institute Melissa Stillman, Guttmacher Institute Adesegun O. Fatusi Akanni I Akinyemi, Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, Obafemi Awolowo University

First published on Studies in Family Planning:

Abstract / Summary

Little is known about the link between health literacy and women's ability to safely and successfully use misoprostol to self-induce an abortion. While abortion is only allowed to save a woman's life in Nigeria, misoprostol is widely available from drug sellers. We interviewed 394 women in 2018 in Lagos State, Nigeria, who induced abortion using misoprostol obtained from a drug seller to determine their sexual and reproductive health literacy (SRHL) and misoprostol knowledge levels; and how these were associated with ending the pregnancy successfully or seeking care for (perceived) complications. Our results show that women's misoprostol knowledge (measured both quantitatively and qualitatively) was low, but that almost all women were nevertheless able to use the drug effectively and safely. Higher SRHL was associated with being more likely to end the pregnancy successfully and also seeking postabortion health care. Our study is the first to examine this association and adds to the scarce literature examining the relationship between health literacy and self-use of misoprostol to induce abortions in restrictive settings.