Women's experiences of early pregnancy assessment unit services: a qualitative investigation

J. A. Hall*, S. A. Silverio, G. Barrett, M. Memtsa, V. Goodhart, R. Bender-Atik, J. Stephenson, D. Jurkovic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To explore the experiences of women who had used an Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) service in the UK and make recommendations for their improvement. Design: Qualitative interview study. Setting: Early Pregnancy Assessment Units in the UK. Sample: A maximum variation sample of women who had consented to be interviewed having attended one of 26 EPAUs involved in the VESPA study in 2018. Methods: In-depth telephone interviews with 38 women. A thematic framework analysis was conducted, with a focus on how experiences varied according to EPAU service configuration and clinical pathway. Main outcome measures: Women's experiences of EPAU services. Results: We found that EPAUs are highly valued, and women's experiences were generally positive. However, women reported a range of issues that negatively affected their experience. These included difficulties accessing the service, insensitive management of the investigation and treatment options of pregnancy loss, poor communication, insufficient information and a lack of support for their psychological health. These issues were not strongly associated with EPAU configuration or clinical pathway. Conclusions: Recommendations to improve women's experiences include the separation of EPAUs from general maternity services, and we make suggestions on how to remove barriers to access by reviewing opening hours, how to provide sensitive patient management, such as automatically cancelling appointments and scans following pregnancy loss, and how to improve communication, both with women and their partners as well as with other parts of the health service. Tweetable abstract: Early Pregnancy Assessment Units are highly valued by women but aspects of their care experiences, particularly around sensitive management of pregnancy loss, could be improved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2116-2125
Number of pages10
JournalBJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Early pregnancy
  • pregnancy loss
  • qualitative research
  • service evaluation
  • women's experiences


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