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Ending your Pregnancy

A prenatal diagnosis of trisomy 13 or trisomy 18 can catapult you into a bleak world of uncertainty; sombre survival statistics, frightening medical complications.or phrases such as ‘incompatible with life’.

As parents considering ending a pregnancy, you must decide what is right for your family and your baby. It may help to talk to friends, family, doctors and faith leaders, before making a choice based on your individual circumstances.

The grief suffered after ending a pregnancy can be private and isolating. Our Befriending volunteers are available to support you, whether your experiences of termination are recent or from a long time ago. 


Medical Information

When you decide to end your pregnancy, it may help you to ask the following questions:

  • What procedure will take place to end the pregnancy?
  • Where will you be when this takes place?
  • If you are later in pregnancy, how long might labour take?
  • What pain relief options are available?
  • Are there any risks?
  • What happens if the procedure does not go to plan?
  • What support is available afterwards?

Ending a pregnancy before the 12th Week of gestation

Up to the 12th week of pregnancy the termination is usually performed under a general anaesthetic when the cervix is dilated and the fetus removed. This is a fairly quick procedure and may be performed on a day patient basis. Afterwards the mother may have abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding. Both are normal although any worries should be referred to a G.P. One major aspect for many parents following this type of termination is that there is no baby to see and therefore a distressing lack of ‘real memories’

Induced Labour

Later in pregnancy a termination usually takes the form of an induced labour when prostaglandins are given by either vaginal pessaries, a catheter via the cervix, or an intravenous drip into the arm, and results in the delivery of a stillborn baby. In late terminations some hospitals offer the option of an injection to the baby allowing it to die before labour begins.

Ending your pregnancy at a later date can be long, but need not be painful as a wide range of pain killing drugs are available. Oral medication to soften the cervix may be offered prior to hospital admission in order to make the labour shorter and less painful. Sometimes a D and C operation is needed afterwards to remove any of the placenta, which may be left in the womb. Most hospitals are happy to allow dad or another birth partner to be present throughout the hospital stay.

 

After the Birth

After the Birth

Parents can plan and discuss what they want before the birth so that a ‘memories pack’ can be prepared with locks of hair, name band, hand print etc. Parents may want to see or hold baby, and this can help to release grief. There is no rush in deciding if you do or do not want to see the baby as this is a time for reflection, and any decision could be regretted if you rush to leave. If a parent does not want to see their baby, photographs may be taken, and footprints and handprints.

Going Home and No Longer Pregnant

The mother is usually able to go home shortly after the birth. She will experience vaginal bleeding and sometimes her breasts will be tender and produce milk. This is normal. Any worries should be discussed with the midwife or your doctor.

Funeral Arrangements

Parents often choose to name their baby, and some have a funeral which some see as an acknowledgement of the baby's life. Should you choose not to have a private funeral, the hospital will ensure your baby is laid to rest with dignity. You may be asked for permission for a post-mortem, and it is up to you to agree or refuse.

Loss

Baby loss after ending a pregnancy for abnormality is relatively new and not well understood by those without personal experience. Parents are sometimes expected to get on with life and the loss is not acknowledged. Those around you, and even you yourself, may expect to feel better when the termination is over, but this is often not so and the weeks and months afterwards can be a time of great anger, guilt, sadness and even depression.

Telling Your Other Children

If you have other children explain to them the baby had severe health problems, and this was nobody’s fault. Some children have definite ideas about the concept of ending a pregnancy and confronting these can be hurtful so you may decide to wait until you feel stronger emotionally. Likewise a child might hold you responsible for denying them a much wanted sibling. Depending on their age you may not want to talk to them about the medical procedures.

Grief After Ending a Pregnancy

At whatever stage a pregnancy is ended there is likely to be a great sense of loss and many parents describe a feeling of emptiness. There is no right way to grieve and no time limit for grief. We are all different and family and friends need to respect the way parents handle their grief in whatever way they wish. Bereavement begins as soon as a parent realises the baby has a serious problem, the dreams of a perfect child are shattered, and the future seems unsure. Some may view ending a pregnancy as a solution and may not acknowledge your need to grieve at all. Only you knew your baby, others will not mourn in the same way, as they have no memories of their own.

Accepting Help

Help from hospital and community medical staff should be available and some parents are offered specific counselling. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness, the loss of a baby is devastating, and anniversaries can reawaken the sadness. It can help to talk to other SOFT parents who have been through a similar situation.

Healthtalk.org

Healthtalk.org has a number of interviews with parents who have elected to end a pregnancy following a diagnosis of Edwards' syndrome - Ending a pregnancy for fetal abnormality.


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