Selective Reduction of Multiple Pregnancy – Sarah’s Story

After a year of trying to get pregnant and having no success we were referred for fertility treatment. We were able to have two funded attempts at IUI but sadly they both failed. I actually complained to the hospital as I didn’t think my treatment had been that good (both times the doctor had struggled with the actual insemination) although after the second failure we had already come to a decision to stop trying to conceive and to try to get on with our lives as a couple.

We were thrown into turmoil when the hospital took our complaint seriously and offered us three more funded IUI treatments. After a lot of thought we eventually decided to have one final go.

During my third IUI, I was aware of having two follicles, and knew this could mean conceiving more than one baby. I had undergone injectable drugs and a trigger shot which was more than I had been given on both previous inseminations. I don’t think we had discussed selective termination before the treatment, but I certainly looked it up on the internet so that I was fully informed.

When I found out I was pregnant, my overall feelings were of happiness. When we found out there were two, it didn’t turn it into a nightmare – it just made the hard journey that much harder. For some reason I wasn’t too emotional about it all. I think it helped that we had discussed the possibility beforehand, and knew what we would do if faced with it. I think that, for me, this was key to coping.

I had the selective termination at about 13 weeks. They inject the foetus they are going to abort in the same way as doing an amniocentesis. You do not miscarry; it is absorbed back into your body. When you give birth, there will be nothing there that shows there was another foetus but there is a small chance that the process will result in miscarriage.
The hardest part was knowing for about 8 weeks that I was carrying two, and one of them was going to have to go. The doctors based their decision about which one to abort on where the placenta for each was, and the general measurements, estimating which foetus they thought was stronger.

I remember after finding out I was carrying two, talking to my CF consultant, and he said “You are well enough to carry twins”, and I said, “Yes, but am I well enough to look after them without it damaging my health?” He would have supported me either way, but I was adamant that I didn’t want two – the idea of what it could do to my health horrified me.  I was confident that I could carry them but was worried about the next 18 years!!!

As it happened, I had bad haemoptysis (bleeding from the lungs) during my pregnancy. It started as small amounts of fresh blood that I coughed up early in pregnancy. I had experienced this before, so I wasn’t too worried initially. At 29 weeks I coughed up a lot of fresh blood. I went into hospital for a few days where they monitored it, and it slowed down of its own accord until I was let home.

Within half an hour of being home I had another major bleed and was back in hospital. It became clear that this was a very dangerous place to be in, and the doctors decided to perform an emergency embolisation. This is where they block the bleeding part of your lung to stop the bleed whilst x-raying your chest so that they can see what they’re doing. They shielded my bump from most of the radiation, but it is still not a nice predicament to be in whilst pregnant. The embolisation worked brilliantly, and after a few days I was allowed home, but I do wonder if I would still be here if I had carried on with a multiple pregnancy instead.

Mentally, the way I have dealt with the selective termination is to think of it as an abortion on medical grounds. Many, many women get pregnant at the drop of a hat and get rid of it just as quickly. A lot of thought went into our decision, and we stand by it as being the right one. I do carry guilt about it, mostly looking at my daughter and thinking she could have been the one that was aborted, but I don’t feel like this very often, and I think that by doing what I did, I have given her what could be years more with her Mum.