How to Cope With a Decision You Wish You’d Never Had to Make
But, when your doctor detects a birth defect during prenatal testing, it can be devastating.
Most women will have an ultrasound at 20 weeks of pregnancy. If the test results don’t indicate good news, this potentially joyful event can quickly turn sour.
Having an ultrasound, you probably expect to be reassured that your baby is healthy, but when your baby is diagnosed with an abnormality you can feel crushed. These abnormalities can affect bodily structure, function or chemistry and seriously impair both your and your child’s quality of life. Or, if the abnormality is severe it can be fatal.
You are shocked and unprepared for the news when you are told you are “carrying a defective” baby.
You are often given the option of terminating your pregnancy.
A decision to terminate pregnancy is emotionally overwhelming to say the least. A decision to continue pregnancy is equally difficult. To make things worse, parents are often urged to make a decision quickly, to avoid complications of late termination in case that is the option they decide upon.
Many women describe that termination for fetal abnormality is the most difficult experience they ever have to go through whether they do it early, or late in the pregnancy. Like them, you likely feel like your world is shattered, like you are experiencing an “emotional earthquake”. You feel emotionally and physically bruised.
Common Emotions Women Experience When they are Faced With a Fetal Abnormality:
- Sadness and grief
A decision to terminate the pregnancy involves ambivalent feelings. You likely have already formed an emotional relationship with your baby. You feel torn between perhaps a “rational” reason to terminate the pregnancy, and protective emotions for your baby.
Distress of having to make this decision co-exists with the relief of sparing your child from suffering. At the same time, you may feel isolated and misunderstood in your grief. Research shows that mothers that undergo pregnancy termination due to fetal abnormalities feel alone in their grief and judged for their decision.
If you should decide to keep your child, there is also a myriad of emotions that come with this decision. You may be feeling overwhelmed and uncertain if you’ll be able to take care of your child properly. You may also wonder if your other children will feel neglected and will suffer.
5 Things That Can Help You When Faced with a Fetal Abnormality
- Get InformedTalk to your doctor, genetic counselor and a psychologist about your particular medical condition and the kind of help that is available for raising a child with special needs. If you are considering termination, ask about methods of termination, exact procedures, insurance coverage and your out-of-pocket expenses. You should receive timely, clear, unbiased information about the abnormality, termination procedures and what happens post-termination. Consider the impact a termination will have on you and your other children if you have any. When you are informed, you will be empowered to make the best decision.
- Acknowledging the BabyAcknowledging the baby is seen as a way to accept that the baby is real. This can help you make a decision and cope with the loss of finding out your baby is not normal and the loss of termination if that is what you decide to do.If you do decide to terminate the pregnancy, you hold your baby, take photographs and foot prints, name the baby-anything that creates lasting memories can be comforting. Research shows that parents who were able to acknowledge their baby in these ways, even when the baby had visible malformations, reported good feeling afterward.
- Emotional SupportReceiving support has been shown to be one of the best coping strategies for those having to make a decision about whether to terminate a pregnancy or not. Research has shown that women felt their partner was their main source of support. Being able to talk with friends and relatives is also of great value for the parents. Support can help you make the best decision and it also leads to less negative reaction to the loss if you should decide to terminate.
- Professional SupportEmpathic professional care is one of the best predictors in recovery when women decide to terminate. Supportive medical staff that are understanding, compassionate and acknowledge the unique aspects of pregnancy termination are important for couples.Professional counseling has also been shown to significantly help women cope with a termination procedure.
- After Care and Support GroupsSupport groups for couples who have terminated a pregnancy are helpful. Groups allow for sharing the common experience of loss, reducing sense of isolation and normalizing feelings.
Complications that may arise after pregnancy termination without any help:
Terminating pregnancy due to fetal abnormality is a complex decision and can leave long-term psychological consequences such as depression, post- traumatic- stress and complicated grief for women and their partners. A women’s self-esteem often suffers because she failed to bare a healthy child. She may feel she has failed herself and those around her.
Counseling Can Help
If you have received news of fetal abnormality and are having a hard time deciding what to do, you may benefit from professional help. Counseling can help you sort out your feelings and think through your situation prior to taking action.
If you have experienced pregnancy termination you may be dealing with marital conflict, grief, anger, guilt and you may be in need of psychological support.
If you are pregnant again, you may feel fearful and uncertain rather than joyful. You may be hold back from getting emotionally involved with the in subsequent pregnancy. The new pregnancy can also bring the intense grief and sadness from the previous one. A therapist that specializes in pregnancy related issues can help you overcome your pain, regain confidence in your body and fully embrace your current pregnancy.
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