If you're faced with the unfortunate choice between terminating a pregnancy or having a child with a severe disability, it's best to talk to your doctor, a therapist and your partner in depth about your options.

By Dr. Laura Riley

If you've received heartbreaking news following your amniocentesis or other diagnostic tests, you may elect to terminate your pregnancy. Some parents make this wrenching decision after learning that their child will be born with a severe disability or a condition that will cause the child to suffer through potentially painful treatments for a disease that is incurable.

Before 12 weeks of pregnancy, all but 1 percent of U.S. abortions are done by a vacuum suction technique (also called aspiration). By the 2nd trimester, however, most practitioners will use a dilation and extraction (D&E) technique to terminate your pregnancy. Other options include chemical installation and vaginal delivery. The technique used will depend on several factors, including your gestational age. Discuss these techniques with your provider.

Before making the decision to terminate your pregnancy, confirm the diagnosis and thoroughly discuss the possible extent of your child's disability. Your health care provider can help put you in touch with specialists who can provide specific information, including high-risk obstetricians, genetic counselors, therapists, pediatric surgeons, and developmental pediatricians. Perinatal social workers or therapists may also help prepare you for the onslaught of emotions that may accompany a pregnancy termination. After an abortion you can expect to feel weepy, angry, and exhausted, so having such support in place is essential for surviving this ordeal.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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