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Ending a pregnancy for fetal abnormality

Feelings about the pregnancy

We asked everyone to tell us what they felt about the pregnancy in the early stages, before they realised that the baby (or babies) had problems, and several women recalled feeling happy and confident at first. Some other women though - including several who had been pregnant before - said they felt from the outset that something was wrong with this particular pregnancy. 

 

She felt something was not right about the pregnancy (her baby had Down's syndrome) and had told...

She felt something was not right about the pregnancy (her baby had Down's syndrome) and had told...

Age at interview: 29
Sex: Female
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Obviously at that point it was very shocking. It, I won't go as far as to say it was unexpected, it's very strange thing to say, but from the moment I was pregnant I felt like there was something not quite right.  

I know people have said to me, 'Oh you're just pregnant, you're worrying,' but I'd already had one daughter and things were fine. This was a very, very strange feeling, it was right at the beginning, it was this underlying feeling that something wasn't quite right. And I honestly thought that in the first few months I might have miscarried - that was the feeling.  

And I actually confided in a close friend of mine. She'd lost a baby at 31 weeks with a heart defect, so for me to confide something like that in her, it would be very serious because I didn't want to upset her, but it was very strange feeling that something wasn't right.  
 

Her pregnancy was planned and she felt happy and very well until after her first scan at 15 weeks...

Her pregnancy was planned and she felt happy and very well until after her first scan at 15 weeks...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
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I found out I was pregnant at about 9 weeks. It was a planned pregnancy. I was very happy and very, very well and was really excited about having another baby. And I had my first scan when I was about 15 weeks pregnant at the local hospital.

And you felt well?

I felt fine, absolutely, yes brilliant. I felt really well. There were no problems. 15 weeks, they, it was just a basic scan and everything was, seemed fine and just carried on the pregnancy, looking forward to a baby coming the coming spring.

Women who said they had experienced positive feelings about this pregnancy described how being pregnant had changed their outlook on life. Several first -time mothers talked about enjoying feeling special - one woman said the pregnancy was like becoming 'part of a club you never knew existed before'. (For more general experiences of pregnancy see our - Experiences of Pregnancy website.)

 

She and her partner got caught up in the pregnancy - their lives started to change as did their...

She and her partner got caught up in the pregnancy - their lives started to change as did their...

Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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You know, I was of the opinion of, you know, career first, family later. And you know he was certainly not of the kind of, 'I'm going to have a family any time', opinion, which is why it was so bizarre it just like, the changes that we went through. We'd gone from just being, you know, two separate individuals that were, you know, connected in that respect, to actually being a family and it was just... I mean, he used to take photos of like, I think it was kind of like every Friday, of how big my belly was getting [laughs]. And he had them all on a digital camera so you could kind of see this kind of wooooo, sort of thing [laughs] growing. Rather unflattering, but you know and like, Christmas was like, all the gifts that he got me, it was like, you know, books and like the babygros saying 'Mummy's little angel' and things like embroidered on them, and videos of like - cos I'm quite into my health and fitness sort of stuff - and I remember finding it kind of difficult at the gym, because you know that treadmills always going to be a little bit wobbly and things like that, so I'd started doing a lot more swimming. But of course I wasn't getting any intense cardio, so he got me some really nice kind of like pre- and post- work out videos and some exercise books and stuff, cos that kind of was, it was becoming a bit of an issue for me, not being able to keep as healthy as I normally did.  

And by that time I was actually kind of like, now I'm properly showing, so you kind of feel like, 'Oh, you know, look at me, I need to have a special seat when I'm going out and, you know, yes, I get to use the toilet wherever I go' [laughs]. Things like that, you know, you, after a while it does just feel a bit more sort of... it does feel a bit more real, you know, everyone can see, everyone knows, I don't have to say, it's just obvious that I'm fat. 

You know, and, and you start - God, buying the clothes - that was great fun actually - going out and getting like proper maternity clothes. Or going to Dorothy Perkins they do lovely maternity gear, and I was in there getting jeans and like, you know, work trousers that have all the special buttons at the sides that expand and things like that. And that's when you really feel it, like, there's a kind of kudos and all of you are kind of stood around looking at each other and you all kind of smile and say, 'Oh, look at me, I'm this big.' And the next person's going, 'Oh look at me I'm this big.' It's just, it's silly but you, it's like you become part of a club that you never knew existed before. 

But you do, you become like kind of, you want everything to be just right. And sometimes that can, you know, it's wonderful but the sense of responsibility can be quite frightening as well, especially when you're used to being quite selfish almost. I hadn't realised quite how much my life was quite selfish in a sense, you know, I did what I wanted to do at times I wanted to do them - I ate what I felt like, when I felt like - and you know and did what I did. And all of a sudden, you know, you're, everything is more important, you know. I stopped smoking the day I found out, but you keep like, thinking about the 4 weeks before, and it's like, you know, you still, I mean I know everyone says don't do it, but you still see people who smoke like way into the pregnancy. Whereas I ended up beating myself up like for 4 weeks I did smoke before I knew, and you know, those kind of things run round in your mind all the time.
 

Many of those who had been pregnant before and knew what to expect, had a gut feeling that this pregnancy was different. Some described their feelings as a premonition or 'sixth sense' that something was wrong - several had discussed their feelings with friends, others had mentioned their worries to health professionals. Even when women had tried to tell themselves they were imagining things they continued to be worried. One woman said that her concern about this pregnancy seemed to fit in with her feeling so ill physically.

 

She felt unwell and was very sick - her instincts told her 'this is not right' (her baby had Down...

She felt unwell and was very sick - her instincts told her 'this is not right' (her baby had Down...

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
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I just, from the very beginning of the pregnancy, thought I wasn't the way I should have been. I didn't feel a normal pregnancy was evolving, and I didn't feel right, and the sickness was horrendous. I was, I would have been, preferred I'd been taken to hospital and looked after I think, I was so poorly. And everyone could see I was poorly. And that just, instinct takes over and it was so different from the first 3, although yes my age was different, I just had an instinct that this is not right.  

Baby was moving - the baby was active - but I think it was just Mother Nature, who was just telling me. I bled early on, and I think if I'd, instead of taking to bed and resting, if I'd just carried on as normal I probably would have had a spontaneous abortion. I think that was my body saying 'This isn't going to work.' But I took to my bed for days, and did everything I was told to do, and rested and the pregnancy progressed.  

So again that's hindsight. It might not have happened, it might have happened. But by the time we got to the blood test I just knew there wasn't going to be a baby at the end of it. Although you say to yourself, 'It's going to work,' that's just outward face, inside you know there's something not working right.
 
 

She felt worried that the pregnancy was wrong even after doctors had tried to reassure her when...

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She felt worried that the pregnancy was wrong even after doctors had tried to reassure her when...

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Female
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Well since our son we decided to try for another baby after about two years, and unfortunately we had a lot of bad luck with three miscarriages in between that time, which we were investigated for and everything came out as fine, so it was just bad luck that that occurred.

And then fell pregnant with the pregnancy that went into 25 weeks, and that also was planned. And I think to be honest from the beginning of that pregnancy I did not feel comfortable. I didn't feel that that pregnancy was going to happen properly. I didn't feel relaxed at all.  

So I had early scans because of previous history and the dates were questioned. So when the sonographer was asking me when my last menstrual period was, it didn't seem to tally with what he was seeing or she was seeing on the screen. So there was some discrepancy at that point about whether the dates were correct. But nothing was kind of pursued at that point.  

And then we decided already that we would have a nuchal scan at a fetal medicine unit in [city], which we did. And at that point again the doctor who carried out that scan said that everything looked 'structurally sound' in quotes, but the baby was on the small side, and just to make reference to that if I needed to in subsequent scans.  

And I do recall coming out of that appointment and bursting into tears and saying, 'She's wrong, there's something wrong'. And my husband was saying, 'Well you've been reassured, they've told you everything's fine,' and I said 'They're wrong.' 

Many women said that the pregnancy became a worry because of physical problems which included breakthrough bleeding and sickness. Several had experienced severe sickness (hyperemesis) and had been treated in hospital for dehydration, and several had experienced bleeding during the first weeks of pregnancy. Physical problems made some women worry about the baby, though they found that most people they talked to, including family, friends and health professionals, had tried to reassure them. Several women wondered whether their sickness was caused by the baby 'fighting to survive'. (For more detailed information about sickness in pregnancy see our - Experiences of Pregnancy website.)  

 

She felt extremely sick in her pregnancy (her baby had ventricular septal defects) and thought...

She felt extremely sick in her pregnancy (her baby had ventricular septal defects) and thought...

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
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I knew when I conceived - we'd gone away for the weekend which was lovely very happy. We went for a scan about 11 weeks, but when I was 6 weeks pregnant I had a bleed and went to the doctors. She reassured me that it was okay. There didn't seem to be any problems. Felt absolutely dreadful - felt very tired, very sick. I was being sick physically 2 or 3 times a day, and inside I felt that something wasn't quite right.   

Lots of people were saying, 'Well you're being sick that's a good sign. The baby's getting everything it needs,' but I knew inside that something wasn't quite right. We had the 11-week scan, and on the pictures everything looked okay. It was too early for them to see if there was a problem, and with the scan at my local hospital they wouldn't have been able to pick it up anyway. 

So everything progressed, and everybody was saying, 'Oh well, the second baby you'll be able to feel movements a lot earlier than you would in your first pregnancy'. But I never felt the baby move - maybe once a day and that was when I was coming up for 18 weeks I think - when most people said you should be feeling things by now. But I just felt unwell and ill, and I didn't feel that things were right.

Those who had planned to get pregnant said they had eaten more healthily, and had given up smoking and alcohol. Several women who later discovered their babies had a neural tube defect said they did not take folic acid, though they were advised to do so in subsequent pregnancies. A woman with epilepsy asked her doctor for advice before she got pregnant and also took folic acid.

 

She was pleased to have conceived so easily but asked her doctor for advice in case her epilepsy...

She was pleased to have conceived so easily but asked her doctor for advice in case her epilepsy...

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Female
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Well, we sort of left the decision to try and become pregnant quite late. I was 37 at the time, and I'd been reading books about fertility and they all said that, you know, fertility declined dramatically after 35. And I didn't really expect to be pregnant quite that soon. When we made the decision, we sort of tried, and then the first month all of a sudden I was pregnant, which obviously we were thrilled about. But also, it was also a bit shocking in a way because, you know, from, between making a decision to have a child after all those years, and being pregnant there was actually virtually no adjustment time.

But we were absolutely thrilled, and because I felt that I didn't have much time because of my age and all the risks associated with pregnancy I was obviously very happy that we didn't have to wait many months, so it was absolutely immediate.

Yes, one other thing that I have to mention is I do suffer from epilepsy, which was another factor that was involved in the pregnancy as well. And I'd been seeing a consultant for many years and we'd been talking about possible pregnancies, so I was aware about the risks that were associated with certain types of drugs that unfortunately are essential for me and I couldn't come off them.

So in a way the neurologist was involved in this pregnancy as well, so he was keeping an eye on me and he was, you know, from the very start he did present some statistics and risks that are associated with the drugs. Even though apparently the risks for certain abnormalities, they double with certain drugs, but they're very low to start with so we're still in the region of, you know, 3 or 4 per cent.

So I was, there was something at the back of my mind, there was a little bit of, you know, niggling worry there, but I was you know, quite positive about it. So I, you know, we just decided to take the 5 milligrams folic acid as recommended, doing all the right stuff and go for it. So that's it, and then all of a sudden there I was pregnant and it all started. 
 

Many women responded to the news that they were pregnant with 'mixed emotions'. For some women, practical issues such as not having enough money or being in the process of moving house, took away some of the enjoyment of pregnancy. A woman who already had twins, explained she felt upset when she discovered she was expecting twins again.  

 

She burst into tears when she found out she was expecting another set of twins because she felt...

She burst into tears when she found out she was expecting another set of twins because she felt...

Age at interview: 43
Sex: Female
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And when they were about 18 months old my husband and I decided we would like another child. And probably fairly quickly I fell pregnant again. Again having taken fertility drugs. Never for one minute did I ever think it would be twins again. But it was [laughs]. And I remember at the, I had a scan at 11 weeks because they wanted to check that everything was fine, and the ultrasound woman said to me, 'It's twins again'. And I burst into tears because I'd found it very very hard having twins. And I was absolutely gob smacked and I was not happy at all. I was, I was very distraught for about, probably about a week I suppose until I came to terms with it almost. And then I kind of thought, 'Okay no, this is okay, this is fine, I'm happy now'. Just, I think it was the shock of finding out I was having twins again.  

At the time the twins were, my first set of twins were 2', just 2', and I just couldn't envisage how I would have 4 children under the age of 3 basically. I just didn't know what I'd do. But I kind of got used to the idea and that was great. And my husband was really really happy as well, so we, when I got to about 12, 13 weeks we did start telling people, and everyone was, 'Oh, my word, no not twins again, but okay'.

Some women had had miscarriages before this pregnancy, and others had conceived the baby after IVF treatment. For these women maintaining the pregnancy was their main concern. One woman who had been trying to conceive for 6 years, said that getting pregnant never seemed 'a doddle' to her.

 

Explains how she and her partner saw every stage of their assisted pregnancy as another 'hurdle' ...

Explains how she and her partner saw every stage of their assisted pregnancy as another 'hurdle' ...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
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I'd always imagined we would have children. I never imagined it would be easy, because I had friends that had gone through IVF and I just thought, 'Bet that will happen to us'. I don't know why, just it was, I don't know, just, just assuming the worst [laughs]. Perhaps I'm a fatalist, I don't know.

And then kind of as things didn't happen, you just think, 'Oh well, here we go'. And that was the case. I mean it wasn't so much my fault, it was more my partner's problems, but we just assumed things like that happened to us. And we decided sort of from the onset that if we were going to go for IVF, we'd only do it three times, because statistically we'd worked out our chances that if you weren't going to get pregnant in three times, then that was about your best chance. So, and we got, I got pregnant on my second go.

I'm sure, I don't think we did tell many people, because people just have an assumption that IVF works. I think that is a huge, especially sort of the way the media portrays it, that it'll just work and that's, it's all going to be fine and dandy and lovely. Yet we'd seen people go through it, so I'm, I'm not sure we did tell many people. And I think we were very cautious when I did become pregnant to tell people, because it's not just - pregnant is the first hurdle - then you've got to make sure that you don't miscarry. So you're thinking, 'Oh, we've made it to 12 weeks - oh, another hurdle'. And that's how we just viewed every little thing as a hurdle. 

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated May 2012.

 
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