A medical termination at 15 weeks
Trigger warning: Termination / abortion, blood, mental health
This is probably the most personal post I will ever write, but I want this information to be out there in case it helps someone who finds themselves in my position.
It was with the heaviest of hearts that I made the decision to terminate my pregnancy for the sake of my mental health. I had truly believed that this baby would be happily welcomed into my little family, and I was excited… so when my mental health deteriorated to the point where I had to urgently prioritise my mental health and keeping my beautiful twins happy and healthy, the world around me shattered. I was able to book a termination appointment through my midwife after explaining my situation, but I had to wait two weeks before the first of two hospital appointments. I spent these two weeks largely unable to leave bed, sobbing my way through the hours I was lucid, but trying to sleep away as much time as possible. It was an incredibly dark time and I will be forever thankful to my wonderful husband for taking full responsibility for the twins throughout these weeks.
Since I organised my procedure through midwives, I was sent along the standard NHS route for termination, which is a medical termination. Had I been equipped with more knowledge surrounding my options, I might have considered a surgical procedure at a different clinic – it would have been a much quicker procedure and there are plenty of clinics that offer this.
Given the fact that I had been fully intending to proceed with this pregnancy for the first trimester, by the time I booked my termination I was quite pregnant. I was showing, I could feel movement in my belly, and I was feeling all kinds of pregnancy symptoms. At the time of my first hospital appointment, I had surpassed the 14 week mark.
As my first hospital appointment approached, I spent a considerable amount of time online, trying to find out as much as I possibly could about the procedure. The information provided on the NHS website was minimal, and didn’t give me the answers I wanted. I found plenty of first hand accounts of medical termination experiences, but only one or two that were performed on someone in their second trimester. Most of the things I read explained excruciating levels of pain, so I mentally prepared myself for the worst based on what little I had to go by.
Medical Termination: The First Hospital Appointment
I arrived to my first hospital appointment alone as I was told I wouldn’t be allowed to bring anyone. I made sure to have plenty of mindless games downloaded to my phone to keep me distracted, just in case I needed to wait for long periods of time in the waiting room. I knew that this hospital visit would consist of a growth scan and being given a pill to stop foetal growth.
I was seen quickly for the scan part of the appointment, and I apologised to the sonographer for being weepy – I was struggling to hold things together at this point and mentally, I was struggling a lot. The sonographer was lovely and handed me a big wad of tissues. She explained that she wasn’t allowed to show me the screen as she did the scan, and I assured her that it was okay and that I didn’t want to see the screen anyway. The scan was fairly quick and then I needed to go back to the waiting room. The sonographer actually asked me if I wanted to wait somewhere quiet instead of the waiting room, but I told her I would be okay.
It wasn’t too long before I was called into a room with a nurse, and this was the most mentally challenging part of the whole process. She asked me some routine questions and then I was able to explain my situation and the reasons behind my decision. She listened to everything I had to say, and passed me tissues when I had to stop because I was sobbing. She reflected on everything I said, saying that it sounded like I had made a very sensible and considered decision considering my circumstances and existing commitments.
Next, she gave me more information about the procedure. She explained that she would give me the pill that would stop foetal growth, and then two days later I would return to hospital where I would be given more pills that would induce labour and delivery. She explained that because I was in my second trimester and would be 15 weeks at the time of the second appointment, things would be pretty horrific. I would experience awful pain, and the foetus was at a stage of development where it was fully formed, and quite big – big enough to really resemble a baby. She showed me with her hands how big it was likely to be – much bigger than I had expected which led to me having a little breakdown in the room with the nurse. She then explained that there is always a small chance the pills at the second hospital appointment won’t work, and in these cases, an overnight stay is necessary followed by another attempt of the procedure the following day.
She handed me the pill to stop foetal growth and explained that this was the point of no return. I took the pill and felt totally numb. After this, I took myself to pathology so my blood could be taken, and then I headed home.
Medical Termination: The Second Hospital Appointment
The days in between the two appointments were hell, mentally. I slept as much as I could to help the time pass, but the night before I was due back in hospital, I started experiencing cramps. I think, my body had realised that my baby was no longer growing and had started to take things into its own hands. The cramps got more intense, and I went into shock. I was shaking uncontrollably and I couldn’t get my body temperature up. I rang the hospital and explained what was happening – the nurses on the ward told me that this can be normal, and to come into hospital, no matter what time, if I started bleeding. Throughout the night, the cramps continued but there was no bleeding. I took paracetamol, but it didn’t really touch the pain.
I arrived at hospital, still experiencing some cramps, at 7:30am, and was immediately seen to. I was taken to my own room with an ensuite – I went through a few questions with the nurse in charge and then we got straight to it. The nurse was lovely, but had a very no nonsense attitude. She had four pills ready, which she needed to insert vaginally to induce labour. She explained to me that everyone reacts differently to the medication and for some people it works quickly, and for others it can take a day or two. I really had no idea what to expect but I hoped it would be quick. Mentally, I felt like I was hanging on by a thread at this point. I was weeping uncontrollably and just wanted everything to be over. My husband was doing the nursery run with the twins and told me to message him after that whenever I needed him to come and be with me.
Within half an hour, the cramps I was feeling increased in intensity until they were almost unbearable. The breaks between cramps became non-existent and after about 45 minutes, I was in constant excruciating pain – worse than anything I had ever felt before. I pressed the nurse buzzer and a nurse came, saw the pain I was in, and told me she would get me some pain killers.
Pain continued to intensify – something I didn’t even know was possible, and I was screaming at this point. There was no way I could stand, sit, or lie that was offering me any relief at all. Tears were flooding down my face from the pain – it felt like my whole reproductive system was in a vice. A nurse came back with paracetamol, which I took, but it was clear that it wasn’t going to do anything for me. Another nurse took one look at me and asked me if I wanted a Pethidine injection – I would have gladly accepted anything at this point. I was told to get my husband to come in to be with me, so I managed to send him a message that simply said ‘come now’.
As a nurse was in the room with me, I felt something happening – and all of a sudden I felt a pop and a gush of liquid. My waters had broken. I was helped to the toilet, which was hard given how much pain I was in, and my bedsheets were changed quickly so I had a dry bed to go back and lie in.
I was given the Pethidine injection, and less than five minutes later I felt intense movement inside me. I told a nurse through sobs that something was happening, and again, I was helped to the toilet which had a bedpan in it. I felt something huge pass out of me and said to the nurse that I thought it was the foetus. I didn’t want to look as I knew it would destroy me mentally, so the nurse just told me to stay on the toilet for a minute while they changed my bed again. I quietly said a few words to what I suspected was the foetus just below me, and my pain started to ease almost immediately.
A nurse came and helped me off the toilet and back to the bed, and another confirmed that I had passed the foetus. She told me to stay in bed, and that when my husband arrived I should walk around the corridors a bit to help get things moving and help any clots find their way out.
After about ten minutes I felt a horrible cramp and got to the toilet where a nurse confirmed I passed the placenta. Pain was majorly reduced from this point onwards.
After passing the placenta, I was exhausted to the point that doing anything other than just laying in bed felt like too much. It wasn’t long before my husband arrived, and I have never been so glad to see him. He sat with me until I was ready to shuffle around the corridors, which I did while leaning heavily on him. I slowly walked around the hospital hallways for about 15 minutes before I felt I needed to rest again and returned to my room. I was experiencing cramps, but nothing unbearable, and nothing like the last hour.
On returning to the hospital room there were several occasions where I felt something moving inside me and I found my way to the toilet in time to pass huge blood clots. They were the size of limes. The nurses explained that while this was normal, they wanted to keep an eye on me until I was passing fewer clots.
Time went on and I started to feel more like myself, but most importantly, my mind started to feel clearer. Despite the absolute trauma of the morning, I felt okay, and like a weight had been lifted.
It wasn’t too long before I was told that I could go home, and was sent on my way. I spent the rest of the day resting, but the next day I felt almost back to normal, it was totally unexpected and quite bizarre.
I am now a week on from my first appointment, and it’s odd to think that I went through such a traumatic event just a few days ago. I’ve not experienced any symptoms following the procedure apart from some bleeding, and the change in my mental state has been immense. Physically, I found myself wanting to run around the garden with my children – something I haven’t been able to do for months.
As I said, this is a deeply personal post, and not the kind of thing that I am naturally inclined to share. However, the total lack of information and first hand accounts of medical termination, especially in the second trimester, is alarming, and I was troubled not to be able to find the answers I needed. I really hope this account helps someone going through something similar, and I hope that it goes just a little way in the fight to acknowledge that abortion is most certainly healthcare.