Conference Coverage

Managing 2nd trimester loss: Shared decision making, honor patient preference



The decision regarding medical versus surgical management of second trimester fetal demise is one that should be shared between the physician and patient, according to Sara W. Prager, MD.

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Information transfer between the physician and patient, as opposed to a provider-driven or patient-driven decision-making process, better ensures that “the best possible decision” will be reached, Dr. Prager, director of the family planning division and family planning fellowship at the University of Washington in Seattle, said at the annual clinical and scientific meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Engaging the patient in the process – actively involving and supporting her in health care and treatment decision-making activities – is critically important, especially when dealing with pregnancy loss, which involves an acute sense of powerlessness, she said. Patient engagement is essential for respecting her autonomy, enhancing her agency, improving health status, reducing decisional conflict, and improving overall satisfaction.

Shared decision making requires a discussion about how the two approaches compare, particularly with respect to specific complications associated with each, Dr. Prager said, noting that discussion of values also should be encouraged.

Although surgical management is used more often, both approaches are safe and effective, and in the absence of clear contraindications in settings where both medication and a practitioner skilled in dilatation and evacuation are available, patient preference should honored, she said.

In this video interview, Dr. Prager further explains her position. “Using evidence-based medicine to have a shared decision-making process ... is extremely helpful for patients to feel like they have some control in this out-of-control situation where they’re experiencing a pregnancy loss.”

She also discussed how the use of mifepristone plus misoprostol for medical management of second-trimester loss has the potential to improve access.

“This is medication that, because of stigma surrounding abortion, is not always available ... so actually using it for non–abortion-related activities can be a way to help reduce that stigma around the medication itself, and get it into clinical sites, because it really does meaningfully improve management in the second trimester, as well as in the first trimester.”

In fact, the combination can cut nearly in half the amount of time it takes from the start of an induction until the end of the induction process, she said.

Dr. Prager also discussed surgical training resources and how to advocate for patient access to family planning experts who have the appropriate training.

Dr. Prager said she had no relevant financial disclosures.

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