Ending a pregnancy for fetal abnormality

Counselling and other kinds of support

Most people felt intensely sad in the days and weeks after ending the pregnancy and found it difficult to get back to being their normal selves. Almost everyone found that ending a pregnancy was much more difficult to recover from emotionally than they expected. 

Many women and some men said that they had needed counselling and/or support from others since ending the pregnancy. (See 'Coping with bereavement - men and women's experiences'.) Others didn't want to dwell on what had happened and felt that counselling would not help them.

Although some women had managed their feelings by staying at home and talking about the baby to their partners, others became overwhelmed by their loss in the weeks, months and years after the termination and realised they needed professional help. Even when women had coped quite well outwardly many said they had gone through very low points, especially at the anniversary of the baby's death. 

Several women said they needed to 'talk and talk' about the baby and how difficult it was when their partners didn't want them to keep talking about it. Several women said it was hard when friends and family expected them to 'move on' with their lives. Many people did recover successfully by themselves over time, and others realised that they needed professional help or were advised to get help by friends or health professionals.

Some women found that counselling wasn't available in their area on the NHS or that they would have to wait for treatment. Several women said they got worse as they were waiting and so decided to pay for private treatment. 

Some people, including most men we talked to, felt counselling wouldn't be helpful - one man said he thought counsellors wanted 'to look too much at other aspects of my life'. A Muslim woman said that counselling was not something people in her culture 'went for' and described how she got support from her family. One woman thought about having counselling but they found she had healed herself by going on a 'health drive'.  

Several people had been offered psychological support and other kinds of therapy through work and said it had helped to talk things through. Most people found that colleagues at work and bosses in particular were very understanding and supportive once they knew what had happened.

Some women were offered anti-depressants by the GP before having counselling. Anti-depressants worked for some, but others chose not to have them. Several women who had had both anti-depressants and counselling found counselling was more helpful. 

Most people had been surprised to get support from people they didn't know before, such as clergymen, colleagues and acquaintances. Sometimes it was something somebody said that helped them and gave them comfort, other times it was what that person did such as using the baby's name, or acknowledging their loss. Clergymen/women, particularly hospital chaplains, were said to be particularly helpful because they knew what to do and what to say, and were non-judgmental. 

As well as other forms of counselling and support, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can also be helpful, for more information on counselling and CBT see our mental wellbeing resources.

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated June 2014.


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