I was certain that I wanted an abortion - my partner and I had never wanted children and still don't.
I found out I was pregnant last August - my period was only a week late but they are always very regular so I took a test immediately. It came as a huge shock when the test was positive because I had been fitted with a copper IUD four years earlier. I was certain that I wanted an abortion - my partner and I had never wanted children and still don't. I felt no guilt or remorse having felt I had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent pregnancy. I consulted my local family planning clinic immediately and was advised that the earliest appointment they could give me for a consultation (not the abortion itself) was in September. I felt this was a very long time to wait, and saw my GP who arranged a much earlier appointment. I actually had the medical abortion before my first consultation through the family planning clinic would have been! This was when I was eight weeks pregnant.
The pregnancy itself was extremely unpleasant. I felt I would rather be dead than be pregnant and couldn't believe I would need to go through an abortion which would be on my medical record for the rest of my life. I was sick almost every day, I had to wear a sports bra because my breasts had grown so large and tender and I was exhausted all the time. The waiting was awful - I couldn't distract myself from the knowledge I was pregnant and had almost constant symptoms. Having read all the information about medical abortions online, I was prepared for a long wait in hospital and some pain. I had also been warned not to look at any of the blood or tissue which I passed. I was in hospital for about eight hours. My partner was allowed to stay with me the whole time. I did experience some pain but it was no worse than bad cramp. I bled a bit and passed some tissue. I had the sensation of needing to push just before I passed the biggest bit of tissue. I was then sent home and given a telephone number to call the next day to arrange a scan to ensure there was no remaining tissue because the hospital staff did not think there had been enough. I bled more and passed very large pieces of tissue over the next two weeks - each bit of tissue felt at least as big as the bit I'd passed in hospital and I began to wonder how much tissue I'd actually passed on the day of the abortion. My symptoms of pregnancy were gone though. I had been given written information to say that I would bleed for 10-12 days but that the bleeding would get less each day. This was not the case, and by the time of my scan which was almost two weeks later, I was still bleeding almost as much as a period. I was told to use towels instead of tampons in case of infection so every time time I went to the toilet I had a reminder that there was something not right with my body. When I went for the scan they gave me an abdominal scan and told me that there was no tissue remaining. I explained that I was still bleeding heavily but was told this was normal and that it might take another month to stop.
Two days later, I had to go for a colposcopy (cervical examination due to abnormal smear test results). As I was still bleeding, I had to explain all about my abortion. When the doctor started to examine me, her face looked shocked, and she told me that my vaginal cavity was still full of tissue. She removed this and told me that there had been seven centimetres remaining inside me. She actually wasn't able to give me the colposcopy because there was so much tissue and blood. No wonder I'd been bleeding so much! This procedure was agonising - much worse than the abortion - and I had more pain and very heavy bleeding that night. Over the next week I was still passing blood clots and tissue. I telephoned the hospital and told them what had happened at the colposcopy, but was told I must be mistaken because my scan had shown nothing. I begged them to take me seriously and eventually they asked me to come in for another scan. They were shocked when I told them I had only been given an abdominal scan and that it was good practice to give an internal scan because this is more thorough. They said the internal scan didn't show anything and said the bleeding would stop within a week. It didn't, so I went to my GP.
It was now more than a month since the abortion and I was still bleeding and having to use towels every single day. My doctor agreed this was not normal and encouraged me to go back to the hospital and insist on another scan. This time they said there WAS still tissue remaining which was likely to be causing the bleeding. I was given two options - either take medication which would stop the bleeding (but it might start again after I stopped taking it) or go back to hospital for a D and C operation under general anaesthetic. Taking the medication didn't seem to be any guarantee that the bleeding would stop, so I opted for the D and C. After this, which seemed to be a short and straightforward operation (and once again, my partner was allowed to be with me), the bleeding stopped immediately.
It felt as if I had had three abortions and the whole process went on for more than five weeks longer than it should have. I would advise any woman going through a medical abortion to insist on an internal scan afterwards - if I had been given one, my experience would have been totally different. I have since written to the NHS to voice my concerns but they will not acknowledge any error and only said that they would change their written information to say that woman might bleed for much longer than 10-12 days after a medical abortion. I was told I could not donate blood for six months following the abortion (yet another reminder that my body was not normal) and now feel put off donating ever again because I will need to explain that I was in hospital for a D and C. I have already had to explain the story to countless health professionals and I don't think I could bear going through it again.
I should also mention that I became pregnant because my IUD had come out without my knowledge. I checked my IUD regularly (although not every day) and never thought this would happen. Sometimes I had had difficulty feeling the strings of the IUD but whenever I expressed concern about this I was told that IUDs never come out after the first six weeks of them being put in. Apparently it is very rare but not impossible. I have since been fitted with a new IUD which I check every single time I am about to have sex. Interestingly, when I had it checked by the doctor eight weeks after it was fitted, she said it would last for five years and that I shouldn't worry about checking it or getting it checked by a doctor or nurse. I told her of my experience which I hope will mean she will not tell other women not to bother checking their IUDs since they do sometimes come out.
It has now been almost a year since my abortion and my only regret is that I didn't check my IUD every time before I had sex this time last year. I also feel angry that my experience was made worse than it had to be and that I have never had an apology for what I feel was an error by the NHS. I didn't tell my father (who I am very close to) what I had gone through until six months later and I do wish that I had told him at the time. Even though I had the full support of my partner, some extra love and support would have been nice because I did feel very isolated and unsupported by the NHS. I still have no intention of ever having children (I'm 28) and if I am ever unlucky enough to become pregnant again I would have another abortion.
Editor’s note: Thanks for sharing your story…you certainly had an unusual experience with being misdiagnosed after your abortion. If you feel strongly about it, you should pursue it with the NHS through their complaints procedure again.
This story was sent in on 11/08/2009
My heart was saying don’t do it, but my head was saying this is the right thing to do. I cried for days hoping to miscarry myself because then my body would have ended it, not me.