Training pharmacy workers in Mexico to support abortion self-care

The abortion drug misoprostol is readily available in most pharmacies in Mexico and can be obtained without a prescription. This means that many women choose abortion self-care—and that pharmacy workers play a crucial role in ensuring women can purchase misoprostol without facing stigma, judgment or misinformation.  

That’s why Ipas Central America and Mexico (Ipas CAM) started educating pharmacy staff. In the last year and a half, Ipas has trained more than 300 pharmacy workers—in Mexico City and the states of Mexico, Hidalgo, Guerrero, Jalisco and Oaxaca—so they know that misoprostol is a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy.

“We visit pharmacy workers on the job and do face-to-face education sessions that involve watching a short, interactive video on a digital tablet and answering some questions before and after,” explains Maria Elena Collado, a project leader with Ipas CAM. The informational video covers the correct misoprostol dosing regimens and what side effects women should expect. “After this short training, nearly all participants can correctly name the commercial brands of misoprostol and state how many weeks pregnant a woman must be to safely use misoprostol,” Collado says.

Of course, abortion stigma and opposition to abortion could inhibit pharmacy workers from telling women about misoprostol or even wanting to sell it to them. The training video addresses this with an overview of the many reasons women may face unwanted pregnancies and choose abortion. And the video ends with a statement of what’s at stake and the important role of pharmacy workers: “Your participation is crucial and can determine the future of many women looking for help from caring and informed health professionals like you!”

After the training session, “almost 70% of participants say they feel ready and willing to share this information with women who need it,” Collado says. Ipas trainers give pharmacy workers brochures to offer women that include contact information for a hotline and “accompaniment” networks that provide support throughout the abortion self-care process.

“These trainings have clearly made a positive impact on pharmacy workers’ ability to support abortion self-care, and we’re planning more trainings in 2020 and beyond,” Collado says.

For more information, contact media@ipas.org.

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