Vislava Globevnik Velikonja


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    Meeting the needs of grieving families after induced abortion for fetal abnormality in Slovenia

    Vislava Globevnik Velikonja University Medical centre, Ljubljana, Slovenia -

    The detection of fetal abnormalities in the first and second trimesters is increasingly common due to advances in technology. Parents need counselling to be prepared for the difficult decisions that must be made if their unborn children are diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Termination after fetal anomaly forces parents to take an active part in the life and death of a nearly-viable fetus. Regardless of the option taken, they often experience intense grief reactions. Both giving birth to a child with a life-limiting condition as well as termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly can be emotionally traumatic life events. Abortions for fetal abnormality are statistically rare, therefore there is little societal understanding and minimal support for those who experience them. The grieving family should be provided with assistance by professionals at multiple levels, aiming at reaching two main target groups: the grieving family by providing direct counselling and support in the hospital and in the community, and those assisting the bereaved by providing training and support. At our department both parents can be hospitalized together during the period of pregnancy termination. The possibility of seeing the dead baby, to hold it and to say farewell may help the parents afterwards. They are informed about cremation and the day of the funeral in a memorial park named Snowdrop Garden, about the mourning process and the possible psychosocial support during it. If the birth weight of the baby is over 500 grams, we use the protocol for perinatal death. Most parents are able to cope with the decisions they made. Feelings such as doubt, guilt, failure, shame, anger, relief, anxiety and depression are common during the process of abortion, the following weeks and sometimes even months. Only a few couples still need psychotherapeutic help and a support group after one year.