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Grief following termination of pregnancy for medical reasons

No-one who conceives a pregnancy expects to have to terminate it for medical reasons and for what would normally be a happy event to become one of great sadness.

Why Does It Happen?

Although there are now a number of tests that are done routinely to check the baby in the uterus, it comes as a shock to learn there is something wrong. It may be there is a problem with the baby and the prospective parents are faced with the difficult decision of terminating the pregnancy. Or it may be there is a problem with the mother’s health and the doctors advise against continuing with the pregnancy.

Factors Affecting Grief

For many couples this news comes out of the blue.

The decision to terminate a pregnancy can be a very difficult time for both parents. It is important women and their partners faced with this situation receive as much information as possible about the baby’s condition and their options. If a couple feel they have been pressured or rushed into a decision, this can impact on their grief.

Other common experiences:

  • couples may question why this should happen to them in particular. It may be difficult to believe this is really happening
  • both parents may feel guilt; that they have passed something on to the child, that there is something wrong with them, or with their side of the family. They may feel they have let their partner down and are not good enough for them
  • couples may worry about future pregnancies and avoid having sex with their partner for fear of another affected baby
  • for some couples this news may not be so unexpected. There may have been an inherited condition in their family which has appeared in their baby but it can still come as a shock that their baby is affected
  • often there is the anxious process of further tests on the baby in the uterus to help confirm the baby’s condition. The mother may worry about the procedure of the termination, and whether it may cause difficulties for future pregnancies
  • a problem with the mother’s health which requires the pregnancy to be terminated will cause significant problems for the couple
  • the decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy may cause feelings of guilt, both at the time and later on

Grieving

Coming home after a termination can feel very empty and support from family and friends at this time can make a lot of difference. On-going support from others such as your GP, counsellors and family is important to come to terms with the decision to terminate a pregnancy and the loss of the baby. Sadness and grief will be normal reactions to such a crisis:

  • allow time to grieve, to cry, and to talk about the emotions being experienced
  • try to be with the people you feel most comfortable with
  • it may be helpful to find someone to talk to who will understand and listen
  • some people benefit from contacting a support group and talking to other parents who have had a similar experience
  • partners can also experience a wide range of feelings and may be unsure how to comfort and help their partner. Men and women often grieve differently. Talking to each other can help you to be aware of each other’s feelings. It can be helpful to speak to a supportive person such as a counsellor or GP
  • other children in the family and other family members can be affected by the loss of the baby and themselves may need support

Having Another Baby

Doctors and medical specialists are there to support and guide planning for another child. It is important to make follow up appointments with the doctors so they can give advice about future pregnancies and provide further support and information.

Future pregnancies with healthy babies may be possible, but in some circumstances genetic counselling may be advised.

Page last updated: 17 September, 2019

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