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A medical abortion of twins

I’m sharing my story in the hope that other women who have found or find themselves in the situation I was in can take some comfort from it in knowing they are not alone. Apart from the wonderful support from my husband I felt very alone.

I am 30 years old. I am fit, healthy and happy. I was delighted to find out I was pregnant with my first baby 4 months ago. I’m in a loving, secure marriage. We had planned the pregnancy and both very much wanted a child together. However my view on the pregnancy drastically changed when we went along for my first scan at 12 weeks where we found out I was expecting identical twins sharing the same sack and placenta. Other than being told it was a ‘high risk’ pregnancy so I would need a scan once a fortnight from 16 weeks I was given no further information. For the next 24 hours I was ecstatic, then it begun to hit me what a struggle it’d be to care for twins and that all the things I had planned to do with my one baby would be difficult if not impossible with two. I begun to feel like having them would involve me surrendering my life to them and I would be on a constant treadmill of feeding, comforting and nappy changing. I started to read lots of stories from other parents of twins which did little to encourage me or change how I felt. Added to this my husband is already the father of twins who are now grown up and knew first hand how hard it was.

I started to read up on why it was felt my pregnancy was ‘high risk’ and I needed so much monitoring. I learnt about all the various risk in any pregnancy which are enhanced in a multiple pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure and I learnt about the additional risks specific to my type of twin pregnancy such as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and premature birth (before 37 weeks – considered full term for twins). I also read about the extra impact a multiple pregnancy would have on my body and the implications of this such as having to start my maternity leave earlier and therefore meaning I’d have less time with my babies after the birth before having to return to work.

Finally I read up on what the birth might be like. I had very much wanted a natural (as possible) birth at home or in my local birth centre where I would be in control. Obviously I knew any birth could have complications so knew this wouldn’t necessarily be possible but there was a high chance it would be. A women’s body after all is designed to make, grow and give birth to a baby – a very natural, not a medical process, not an illness. I learnt I would have to have a caesarean.

Over the space of a few days I began to feel very stressed and worried about the pregnancy, birth and raising twins. I felt as if all the joy of pregnancy had been sucked out of me and that there was no light at the end of the tunnel as I didn’t feel capable of raising two babies. I became very tearful. I talked about how I was feeling with my husband, who had picked up on how unhappy I’d become. Several days later he said “don’t feel like you have to go through with the pregnancy.” It was as if someone had flicked a switch in my head, suddenly I felt hope and that there was a positive future. I instantly felt more relaxed and immediately knew that a termination was the only way forward for me. I was 13 weeks by this stage and knew that I wouldn’t be able to arrange an abortion over night so was anxious to set the wheels in motion. Also emotionally I didn’t want to leave it as I didn’t want to become anymore aware of the pregnancy than I already was and knowing it wasn’t many weeks off until I’d be able to feel the foetuses move. I knew if I changed my mind at any stage I could pull out. So the next day I saw a GP. I was scared (given my circumstances and that a tiny minority of GPs are opposed to abortion) I would be met with opposition, judgement and barriers. She was lovely, listened, empathised and was supportive and kind and didn’t hesitate to refer me to my local hospital for my initial consultation. The appointment was set for 2 weeks later.

During this time my husband and I discussed my decision in great detail, we cried together, held each other, listened to each other and empathised. He was amazing and I took great strength from him. Not once did he try and tell me what I should or shouldn’t do, he said it was my decision because I would have to go through the pregnancy and initially would have to be the sole carer for them. I couldn’t have wished for anyone better, more perfect, kind, caring or loving. Over this time I hunted the internet for stories of other women in my situation who had discovered they were expecting twins but had decided to end the pregnancy as they couldn’t cope, but I found none. I remain sure that I’m not the first woman who’s taken this decision and won’t be the last. I know abortion itself is a very emotive subject but I started to feel that abortion of a multiple pregnancy was a huge taboo which is why I wanted to share my story. Most importantly over this time as each day passed I became more and more sure that I was doing the best thing and felt very comfortable and relaxed about my decision.

I also wanted to share the story of the actual termination and how I now feel as I know I found it useful reading the stories of other women’s experiences. The consultation at the hospital was fine I found the consultant, student dr and nurses I saw to be just like my GP; kind, non-judgemental and understanding. I had a medical termination at 16 weeks. When I turned up to take the tablet several days after my consultation the nurse I saw was again like all the other health professionals: kind and non-judgemental.

I didn’t have any symptoms from the tablet; no sickness only very mild cramping, no bleeding. Two days later I was admitted to hospital to complete the procedure. I had my own room on the ward and my husband was allowed to stay with me all day. I was told by the nurse if I needed any pain relief I could have paracetamol, codeine, gas and air or morphine – I only had to ask. I was given three internal pessaries at three hourly intervals. The first didn’t do anything and the second caused moderate pain, I took paracetamol and codeine which really helped. By the time the third was inserted they brought me gas and air as the pain was much greater. It was like very bad period pain, I found moving around eased it. By 8pm I still hadn’t passed the pregnancy and had only had light bleeding. I was told I would have to stay overnight as they couldn’t let me go home at 16 weeks pregnant. I was taken on to a different ward and again had my on private room this time with an en-suite. My husband wasn’t allowed to stay overnight, but stayed until gone 10pm.

Overnight the pains got worse and worse, so bad I couldn’t sleep. I was constantly on the gas and air and was brought regular doses of paracetamol and codeine as well as morphine. None helped. By 5am I was in the worst pain of my life. At 5.50 I was laying on the bed waiting for the nurse to come back with more pain relief when I felt a huge gushing – my waters had gone. My pyjama bottoms and the bed were soaked despite the fact I was using a large thick maternity pad. I went to the bathroom to clean up and felt the urge to push – I knew what was coming next. I passed the pregnancy into three separate cardboard bowls whilst sat on the toilet. I knew seeing the foetuses would really upset and traumatise me so I’d taken the decision some days earlier not to look under any circumstances. I immediately put paper towels over the bowls, carefully not looking so I couldn’t see anything. When I got up I was dripping a lot of blood, I had to put a paper towel between my legs as my underwear was soaked through from where my waters broke. I don’t know why but I tried to clean the blood up from the bathroom floor, I suppose it made me feel more dignified. As if by magic the pain had stopped. I felt euphoric and hugely relieved but incredibly tired.

I called the nurse who quickly put pads on the bed and told me to rest and that she’d change it properly once she’d checked what I’d passed and cleaned up the floor in my room. She told me not to drink or eat and that she needed to check that I’d passed everything. She came back about 15 minutes later and told me it looked like everything had come out, apologized I’d had to go through it alone (not that I minded) and quickly changed my bed which was wet from my waters breaking and I’d also bled quite a lot since getting back in it. At 8 am she came back and checked how much I was bleeding and took me back onto the other ward, again into my own room and told me to get into bed and sleep. My husband turned up half an hour later, but I slept until 11, I got up washed had something to eat and threw up.

I had to wee into a cardboard bowl to show the nurses so they could check my bleeding and decide if I was OK to go home. They also checked my temperature and blood pressure and made sure I’d eaten and had a drink. I was discharged about midday. I’ve not mentioned the staff yet – but all the staff on the ward and the nurse overnight were absolutely lovely again; kind, caring, non-judgemental and just wonderful. I can’t fault the service and care I received.

I’m now recovering at home, several days have passed. I’m still bleeding but it’s easing. Today I’ve been quite tearful thinking about how I passed the pregnancy. In hindsight I would have much preferred a surgical abortion so I didn’t have to feel or hear the pregnancy coming out. But I wasn’t given a choice. I do feel a sense of loss, but I still feel relieved and know I made the right (and only) decision for me. I take a great deal of comfort knowing I don’t have the responsibility of raising two babies I couldn’t have done my best for. I’m so glad I live in a country where I can choose when I can have children by using contraception and have the opportunity to access a safe abortion on the NHS up to 24 weeks if I find myself pregnant and not wanting to continue the pregnancy for what ever reason. These are all choices we should have as women and not things that should be removed from us and decided upon by the state or a health professional.

Editor's Comment

Thank you for sharing your story. I agree that I have not seen a story of abortion for multiple pregnancy posted. It sounds as though you had a caring professional team looking after you, and the support that you needed through the procedure.

We are not able to refer directly for termination. We offer clients information on all the options and are well resourced to provide both immediate and long term support as necessary, directing to other agencies as appropriate.
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