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‘Repeat abortion’, a phrase to be avoided? Qualitative insights into labelling and stigma
  1. Lesley Hoggart1,
  2. Victoria Louise Newton2,
  3. Louise Bury3
  1. 1Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health and Social Care, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  2. 2Lecturer in Applied Health Research, Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  3. 3Independent Research Consultant, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lesley Hoggart, The Open University, Faculty of Health and Social Care, Horlock Building (H123), Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK; Lesley.hoggart{at}


Background In recent years there has been growing international interest in identifying risk factors associated with ‘repeat abortion’, and developing public health initiatives that might reduce the rate. This article draws on a research study looking at young women's abortion experience in England and Wales. The study was commissioned with a specific focus on women who had undergone more than one abortion. We examine what may influence women's post-abortion reproductive behaviour, in addition to exploring abortion-related stigma, in the light of participants' own narratives.

Study design Mixed-methods research study: a quantitative survey of 430 women aged 16–24 years, and in-depth qualitative interviews with 36 women who had undergone one or more abortions. This article focuses on the qualitative data from two subsets of young women: those we interviewed twice (n=17) and those who had experienced more than one unintended/unwanted pregnancy (n=15).

Results The qualitative research findings demonstrate the complexity of women's contraceptive histories and reproductive lives, and thus the inherent difficulty of establishing causal patterns for more than one abortion, beyond the obvious observation that contraception was not used, or not used effectively. Women who had experienced more than one abortion did, however, express intensified abortion shame.

Conclusions This article argues that categorising women who have an abortion in different ways depending on previous episodes is not helpful. It may also be damaging, and generate increased stigma, for women who have more than one abortion.

  • abortion
  • long-acting reversible contraception
  • stigma
  • contraception
  • unintended/unwanted pregnancy

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  • Funding The research was funded by Marie Stopes International. Victoria Newton is currently supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) North Thames at Bart's Health NHS Trust.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval NHS Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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