Ending a pregnancy for fetal abnormality

Leaving hospital and going home

Leaving hospital and going home after ending a pregnancy is the time when parents try to resume their normal lives and begin to take stock of what has happened. 

Everyone wanted to be at home again to be with their families and to have time to grieve for the baby. But many women described how torn they felt between wanting to get home and feeling a strong urge to remain physically close to the baby - several explained how difficult they found it to walk away from the hospital without the baby and how it went against all their instincts. 

Though no one we spoke to had chosen to take the baby home with them, several women said that they had considered the possibility. (See 'Resources').

Several women who had ended the pregnancy surgically and who hadn't been able to see or hold the baby, said that they felt 'empty' and let down because emotionally they felt that they should have had a baby to take home. 

After the termination many women had stayed in hospital overnight and had appreciated being in a quiet and private room where they were able to rest and keep the baby with them through the night. Several women said that they had been asked if they wanted to write something about the baby in a memory book kept at the hospital and had been glad to do so.

Some women said that staying any longer than necessary in hospital, particularly when they could hear newborn babies crying in rooms nearby, had been difficult and unsettling. One woman described how she had felt the need to hold a baby, and how grateful she was to another woman who let her hold one of her newborn twins for a time.

Several women talked about how they felt their partners had wanted to get away from the hospital as quickly as possible and that they were grateful to them for being patient and understanding. Several men we talked to recognised that their partners had found it very difficult to leave the baby behind. 

Being at home

The time between leaving hospital and the baby's funeral was described as 'strange', 'unreal' and 'surreal' by many people. Some said that they had experienced several different emotions at the same time - relief that the experience was over, sadness for the loss of the baby and the pregnancy, resentment that they didn't have a baby and anxiety about the funeral/post mortem and whether or not they should have another baby. Several people with other children waiting for them at  home said it had been difficult hiding their emotions.

Parents talked about the help and support they received from friends and family who listened to them, helped with other children, cooked meals, did their shopping and answered the phone. However some parents found that bumping into friends, neighbours and colleagues who didn't really know what had happened could be very awkward and that generally people were embarrassed because they didn't know what to say or how they should respond to news of the baby's death. 

In the days after the termination most women experienced the physical after-effects of childbirth such as bleeding and lactation. Several women, including some who had had a surgical termination, experienced bleeding. Though bleeding generally stopped within a week or two, several women whose bleeding got worse returned to hospital for further treatment. Several women who had not experienced childbirth before, said they had been unprepared for bleeding. 

Although women who had ended the pregnancy by induction had been told to expect that their milk would come in and had been given medication to help, several said they had still experienced swollen breasts. 

For many women seeing a midwife at home as part of the hospital follow-up had been extremely helpful. However when information about the termination did not reach the community midwives or the GP in time to stop reminders being sent out about antenatal appointments, some parents felt let down by the system. 

Being back at home and yet still waiting for post mortem results could be particularly difficult for parents because they couldn't have the funeral or say goodbye to the baby formally. (See 'Saying goodbye to the baby' and 'Deciding whether to have a post mortem'.) 

Last reviewed July 2017.


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