A comparison of medical and surgical termination of pregnancy: choice, emotional impact and satisfaction with care

P Slade, S Heke, J Fletcher, P Stewart
British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 1998, 105 (12): 1288-95

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether women having medical or surgical terminations of pregnancy differ in their emotional distress before or after the procedure. To evaluate whether choice of procedure occurs, the factors influencing type of procedure and the effect of choice on emotional responses and satisfaction with care.

DESIGN: A prospective comparative study.

SETTING: A termination of pregnancy unit in a University Teaching Hospital.

PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred and seventy-five women attending for medical or surgical first trimester termination of pregnancy.

METHODS: Interviews concerning choice and measures of emotional status were completed prior to terminations. Four weeks after termination emotional functioning was reassessed together with satisfaction with care.

RESULTS: Women having a surgical termination waited longer for the procedure and were at more advanced gestation than those having the medical termination. There were no differences in emotional responses related to type of procedure or gestation. One-quarter remained highly anxious at four weeks. Medical and surgical groups did not differ in emotional status prior to termination. Those having the medical procedure rated it as marginally more stressful and experienced more post-termination physical problems and disruption to life. Seeing the fetus was associated with more intrusive events (nightmares, flashbacks, unwanted thoughts related to the experience). One-quarter of the medical and 67% of the surgical group reported having no choice in type of procedure. Only 53% of the medical group would choose the same procedure again compared with 77% of the surgical group.

CONCLUSIONS: Termination method did not influence emotional adjustment. Many women were not offered genuine choice of procedure. Having choice was considered very important but was unrelated to emotional distress or satisfaction with care.

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