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Ending a pregnancy because of fetal abnormality

Parents may experience a wide range of complex emotions when told of a problem with their pregnancy or that a fetal anomaly (also called foetal anomaly or foetal abnormality) is found. If you and your partner come to BPAS to end the pregnancy following ante-natal screening; we will provide the highest quality medical care and sensitive emotional support throughout the treatment process.

Treatment choice

We have been helping women since 1968 – and have cared for women and parents who end a pregnancy because of all manner of complex situations and circumstances including fetal anomaly. We will involve your partner in the process as much as we can, allowing them to support you as much as possible throughout the procedure. BPAS offers both surgical and medical termination up to 24 weeks gestation by staff who are both skilled, and experienced in this specialist area of healthcare.

Problems with the fetus are usually identified in the second trimester; both surgical and medical terminations are safe and effective at this stage in the pregnancy, and have no effect on later pregnancies.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that following the decision to end a pregnancy due to fetal anomaly, women should be offered the choice of both medical and surgical methods.  We realise that this is not possible in Ireland but our experienced and caring staff can do this for you in the UK.

"The nurses at the clinic, we went to for treatment, took extra time to make us feel better"BPAS Doncaster client

Treatment options

Surgical termination

This is usually done under general anaesthetic and takes about 15 minutes. It is usual to prepare the cervix to open it up slightly, either on the morning of surgery or the day before. Depending on your medical history, it may be necessary to stop the fetal heart-beat with an injection before the surgery. The fetal tissue is carefully removed from the uterus.

The benefit of surgery is that it is quicker, involves less pain and bleeding and you are asleep as it takes place.

This is not suitable for those who wish to see or hold their baby, or have further testing such as detailed post-mortem examination of the fetus.

Click here for more information on Surgical Termination

Medical termination

This involves taking medication to start labour, causing the fetus and placenta to be passed intact. You will be given strong pain relief. The day before the induction you are given a medicine to prepare the cervix– you will go home returning to the clinic the following day. The process takes between 6 and 24 hours, so you may need to stay overnight in the clinic once this has started. If you are over 22 weeks pregnant the fetal heartbeat is stopped with an injection before the induction takes place.

If you wish to see or hold your baby, or want further tests such as a detailed post mortem examination, medical induction could be the most suitable treatment.

Click here for more information on a Medical Termination

Testing the fetus

We will discuss fetal testing with you at your consultation.  For couples who have not been directly referred to BPAS from an NHS fetal medicine unit, you may not have had the opportunity to discuss this aspect of your care. If you require fetal testing then you must identify a suitable clinician to receive the results.  Tests which require an intact fetus require a medical termination procedure. Although we cannot arrange post mortem examination by a specialist pathologist there are other tests we can arrange for you but these will incur additional cost. We can discuss this at your consultation.

We understand that women from Northern Ireland may have been given the option to arrange in advance for testing to be done by the NHS at your own hospital.  If this is your preference we will package the fetal remains to allow you to transfer to the designated hospital for testing.

This is not possible for women from the Republic of Ireland

Fetal remains

It is important that you let us know if you have any wishes regarding the fetal remains before you decide which treatment you would prefer. We can liaise with a funeral director of your choosing, or you can take the fetal tissue away and arrange your own ceremony. Alternatively we can respectfully dispose of the fetal tissue.

Mementos of the pregnancy

If you would like to see and hold your baby after the procedure, please tell a member of staff as this may influence your treatment choice. We can arrange for you to have ultrasound pictures and handprints on request.