An extremely traumatic medical abortion. The follow-up 2 years later

By anonymous on 14/11/2010

This is my follow up story to my original post 'I am 28 years old and two days ago I experienced an extremely traumatic medical abortion at six weeks pregnant'.
It's taken 2 years for me to feel ready to follow up on my story and I feel even more strongly about wanting to advise women who are facing the difficult decision over whether to have a medical or surgical abortion.
What I keep reading, story after story are that the women who are traumatised the most are the ones who felt very underprepared for what they were about to experience - especially for women whose symptoms turned out to be more severe. It is this fear and panic of not knowing whether what is happening is normal, and not having enough support that for me made an already awful experience - a very traumatic one.

Looking back, the service provided by BPAS was shockingly inadequate

I could live with the inadequacies of the initial appointments but to receive no support whatsoever when actually going through the abortion itself is unforgivable.
I was physically exhausted and my body was going into shock. I didn't know if this was normal and I was begging for advice from supposedly medically trained staff who basically advised I should do what I think necessary (i.e. call an ambulance). They weren't telling me otherwise so I just put up with it and prayed it would end. If women are expecting the experience to be awful but don't fully understand what is normal and what's not, what else can you do but put up with it - you don't know any better!
I should have expected this after the nurse at BPAS warned me that you often get a 'dud'. I suppose at the time I laughed it off - but when it actually came to it and you are in a situation where you need medical support - there should never be a 'dud' on the end of the phone.

Sent home to undergo the abortion

This is the main argument I have against medical abortions by private clinics where you are sent home to undergo the abortion. I decided to choose this method, for all the right reasons, e.g. to do it in the comfort of your own home etc. But this method is all well and good provided everything runs smoothly on the day.
Women should not risk going through an abortion without medical support to hand.
I found the whole BPAS approach underplayed the whole experience of abortion. Women should be prepared for the worst and fully understand the implications of what they are doing. If you are prepared for something, however bad, it helps take the fear away - and it was definitely the fear of the experience that traumatised me so much.

I am not against medical abortions; I am against the private clinics that send you home

I would strongly recommend only doing it this way through the NHS where you undergo the abortion at a hospital where you have medical support to hand. No one can know what the experience will be like for you so why take the risk.
My story unfortunately does not end there. Following my abortion day I continued to feel ill with continued bleeding, cramps, nausea etc. for the following few weeks and when I took the follow-up pregnancy test it revealed a strong positive result. I should have trusted my body and my instincts; I sensed something was wrong at the time. It never felt like it 'aborted completely' and the symptoms never really eased. After further 'useless' conversations with BPAS Support Line I went back to the BPAS Clinic where I had an external scan which showed no pregnancy.
The Doctor was happy with that if I was happy. (Well I'm not a Doctor so I didn't push it at this stage - regrettably). My symptoms eased a little so I presumed things were finally improving (and in the meantime started a complaint through BPAS which I failed to pursue any further - I just couldn't face the hassle.) but unfortunately my condition deteriorated and I was left haemorrhaging blood over the next couple of weeks over Christmas (very heavy bleeding with large clots and stringy tissue which would go through phases of pouring out of me to a point where I was housebound).
When I rang BPAS the 'Receptionist' tried to convince me to wait and see how it goes and I had to push for her to ask the Nurses advice. Eventually I pushed for an appointment at a clinic which after further conversations I found out would have been a complete waste of time as they did not have the equipment to carry out an internal scan on my appointment day - this was the last straw and I rang NHS Direct immediately. The service I received was fantastic and was advised to go to A&E as soon as I could.
I went along to the hospital and was within the hour admitted to Gynaecology and led in my own private room where I received fantastic care. I felt safe and looked after for the first time in 2 months.

I underwent an operation the following morning

I was looked after by the lead consultant at a very prestigious hospital who was shocked at the size of tissue they had to remove from me. I distinctly remember him saying 'they should have seen that on the scan they carried out'.
He also talked about how there is a reason why their hospital does not perform medical abortions, and mentioned something called 'The MIST Study'.

The anger and feeling let down by BPAS

In summary, the abortion itself - I can cope with. It is the anger and feeling let down by BPAS and worry for other women that I have struggled to come to terms with and the service itself that has traumatised me. I think this has ruined and taken over my experience and stopped me from focusing on what was really important - my feelings about the abortion itself.
I am now left so traumatised that I fear pregnancy and will never be able to enjoy the normal joys of pregnancy when we are finally ready. My feelings towards abortion have not changed. We both knew what we had to do and that it was the right thing - but at the time we were very sensible and listening to our heads not our hearts; and our decision was based on this. What I did not realise at the time was that you might not always feel the same way about things or about decisions you make based on what you thought at the time.

I thought things were very black and white - but they are not

I am looking back from a very different perspective and thinking about it in ways which I was not even aware of at the time.
In my naivety I thought it was so simple and I had no awareness of the enormity of it - it's a decision you have to live with for the rest of your life! Finally I wanted to say a big thank you to Care Confidential - this website and what it offers, and the services available. I am currently going to Counselling at my local centre and I am finally receiving the support I so desperately needed.Thank you.

Editor's Comment

Thank you for having the courage to revisit this site with your follow-up post. It is helpful to get an evaluation of your experience once the initial shock and trauma has passed.
I am shocked that the abortion clinic did not take your symptoms more seriously. Excessive bleeding and retained products of conception are both complications of medical abortion, and were potentially a very serious risk to your health if left untreated. Unfortunately many private clinics employ staff for doing dating scans, but they are not always trained with the expertise of a sonographer, who can diagnose abnormalities. As you say medical abortion can affect women very differently, and to go through this procedure at home with no access to medical support or back up can be very frightening and potentially dangerous. I am glad that you are now getting help and support from a local pregnancy counselling centre, and hope very much that you will find emotional healing as you come to terms with this terrible experience.

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