50 years of abortion in England: one midwife’s personal reflection

Both Lives Matter | Blog | 50 years of abortion in England: one midwife’s personal reflection

Dear Both Lives Matter,

I was very interested to read your booklet. As a semi-retired hospital midwife in England, it is upsetting to work in a place where late abortions take place for fetal abnormalities, or reduction of multiple pregnancies. As a conscientious objector I only work on post-natal wards.

I qualified in the mid 1970’s and have worked as a midwife ever since, apart from 10 years off to have my children. I work in one of the largest women’s hospitals in Europe, which is also a regional centre for special care babies. For many years I have worked primarily in post-natal care. I have never been involved with abortions. I also refused to work on clinic as I don’t agree with some screening processes. On delivery suite, I found it very upsetting to know that late abortions were taking place, especially as the same staff would be striving to save a very premature baby, on the same corridor. The mums having abortions were largely treated like anyone who was having a stillbirth, as though it were a natural tragedy.

Some years ago, I cared for a mother, whose baby had been diagnosed, antenatally with a life limiting disability, Edwards syndrome. Her Consultant had refused to see her on clinic visits, as she had declined abortion, he said there was no point as she was carrying a dead baby!

My recollection of this case is that it was very harrowing. I think the Consultant, who was a specialist in fetal medicine, felt it was a waste of time seeing the mum, as there was nothing to be done for the baby. The baby was stillborn, but the mother was able to keep the baby for a few days, with our support. We kept the room cool, and took him to the mortuary overnight.  As the baby hadn’t died in the womb, his body was perfect, and mum was able to bath, dress him. Nowadays, the babies can be kept in a cool cot and kept at home.

This time, with our support, gave her enormous comfort, and built memories, now proven to help greatly with grieving. If she had had an abortion, this would not have been possible.

A lot has improved for mums. Stillborn babies used to be taken away quickly and never shown to parents. Maternity hospitals were very regimented, mums had little say in their care, dad’s were not encouraged, some midwives were very fierce!

I have to say though, looking back, for all that, in general mums seemed much happier, on large open wards, for long stays, enjoying their stay. They were well looked after with plenty of staff. I think expectations were different to now. Mums seem to be so much more knowledgeable now, thanks to the internet, but very stressed, especially if the birth doesn’t go to their care plan. They are sent home so quickly, often with little support.

I’m not sure, it’s difficult to know, if women are better off in 2018 than they were a generation or two earlier.

I hope this is of interest to you. Good luck with your very important campaign, I shall follow it carefully.