Are you considering ending a wanted pregnancy because you’ve received an adverse medical diagnosis? Or because of significant distress in your life such as the loss of a significant other? If you’re considering ending a wanted pregnancy, for whatever reason, then it is important for you to talk with people who care. You’ll find that at Avenue Women’s Center.
To connect with a caring client advocate in Chicagoland, please contact us today.
ADVERSE MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS
Here at Avenue Women’s Center, we sometimes meet with women who have been given an adverse maternal or fetal diagnosis by a doctor. Facing adverse medical diagnoses forces women into making difficult decisions about what to do with their pregnancies. In fact, today I read two articles about women who shared their stories about ending a wanted pregnancy because of adverse medical diagnoses. One woman said “it was the hardest decision of my life.”*
What are some adverse medical diagnoses that women have faced?
One of the women in the articles was faced with a fetal diagnosis of Posterior Urethral Valve (PUV). According to Richard Yu, MD, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, PUV, or the extra flaps of tissue in the urethra, block the normal flow of urine which could cause damage to organs such as the kidneys and bladder. Also according to Yu, PUV occurs in about one in 8,000 baby boys. PUV is most often treatable through surgical procedures. Yu says that most boys with PUV will go on to lead normal, healthy lives. However, in some cases, doctors advise that the blockage is severe and the child could face a lifetime of kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant. In the case of the woman from the article, her doctor told her that the blockage was so severe her baby would probably die shortly after birth because of a lack of lung development or sepsis because of the kidneys not functioning properly.
Another woman in one of the articles had to deal with a fetal diagnosis of Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD), which is also sometimes called Atrioventricular Canal Defect (AVCD). According to doctors at Mayo Clinic, “the condition occurs when there’s a hole between the heart’s chambers and problems with the valves that regulate blood flow in the heart.” If left untreated, AVCD can cause heart failure or high blood pressure in the lungs. AVCD is treatable through surgery, which doctors recommend be done during the first year of the baby’s life. With a successful surgery, most people will lead a normal life with no activity restrictions. Monitoring by a cardiologist about once a year is recommended. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “about 2,000 babies (1 in 2,120 babies) are born with AVSD every year in the United States.” With this diagnosis, women would have to deal with the fear of the possibility that their child would have heart failure, so it is understandable why this condition may cause women to consider ending their wanted pregnancy.
Another woman in one of the articles endured hearing a fetal diagnosis of Dandy Walker Malformation (DWM). According to William B. Dobyns, MD, of the University of Chicago, “(DWM) is a brain malformation that occurs during embryonic development of the cerebellum and 4th ventricle.” The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls coordination, and also plays a role in cognition and behavior. Also according to Dobyns, “the frequency of Dandy Walker malformation in the US is approximately 1 per 25,000 -35,000 live births and affects more females than males.” As far as treatment for DWM, in some cases surgery is required and can improve the condition. DWM can also be more manageable with help from a team of professionals such as physical therapists, special education teachers, and more. With a diagnosis of DWM, some women conclude that it’s more humane to not put their child through the lifelong symptoms that DWM would cause and the lifelong treatments it would require.
More than one client has lived through an emergency birth experience and been told by a doctor to “never get pregnant again.” This could be caused by a blood disorder such as ITP or an experience such as Peripartum Cardiomyopathy. Whatever the cause, it is understandable that having been through one traumatic experience, a woman would want to avoid going through it again.
The blood disorder called Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, is a scary reality for some women. ITP is characterized by easy and excessive bruising and bleeding because of a low number of platelets (cells that allow blood to clot) in the body. For adults, the disorder is usually long-term and can be treated through medication or, in some cases, through surgery. According to Mayo Clinic, “In rare cases, the number of platelets may be so low that dangerous internal bleeding occurs.” For a pregnant woman who has ITP, there is a greater risk of excessive bleeding during delivery. If you’re pregnant and you have ITP, it can be risky for your health no matter which option you choose for the pregnancy, which is why it is so important to speak with a doctor who specializes in caring for women in your situation.
Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which there is a problem with the heart muscle. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cardiomyopathy makes it harder for your heart to pump and deliver blood to the rest of your body.” Sometimes, cardiomyopathy leads to heart failure. Peripartum is just a word that means during pregnancy or after childbirth. Peripartum or postpartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) occurs usually during the last month of pregnancy and five months after delivery. There are three different types of cardiomyopathy and treatment is determined by which type you have. Most often, cardiomyopathy is treated with medication or a surgically implanted device. In severe cases, a heart transplant may be needed. If you have peripartum cardiomyopathy, you may wonder what the chances are that you would make it through, and you certainly have a difficult decision ahead of you.
There is nothing like the misery of consistent nausea and vomiting. Many women experience morning sickness during pregnancy, but some experience severe morning sickness, otherwise known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum. According to Mayo Clinic, this severe type of morning sickness may be so debilitating that it requires “hospitalization and treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids and medications.” And – if it hits when you are a sole provider for your family, responsible for paying the rent, and you can’t work because you’re so ill, it may become a factor in the decision you make regarding your pregnancy.
At Avenue Women’s Center, we meet often with women who are considering ending a wanted pregnancy because of something that is causing them significant distress in life. Whether that is the loss of a significant other, no hope for their relationship, financial distress, violence, etc., it causes a pregnancy decision to be even more difficult. Often, in these cases, the thing that is causing a woman significant distress feels like too much to bear, and then they find out they’re also pregnant. We understand those feelings of distress, fear, weariness, and the range of emotions that you may be experiencing. And we want to help.
We have not listed these examples to be discouraging or to cause fear in women. We want you to know that, if you are facing a debilitating decision, you are not alone. Others have gone before you. We have been honored to stand with them as they’ve gathered information and made their best possible decisions. And we would be honored to stand with you today.
Facing the possibility of ending a wanted pregnancy is not something that anyone should have to go through alone. While Avenue Women’s Center does not have medical specialists prepared to address each possible adverse diagnosis, we do have professionals who will provide you with other important components of your pregnancy decision-making process. That includes accurate pregnancy options information and a nonjudgmental and listening ear to help as you process your situation. We have four locations in the Chicagoland area: Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn / Lombard, Naperville, and Wood Dale, Illinois. To connect with a caring professional in any of those offices, please contact us today!
- The Guardian. (2017, April). The agony of ending a wanted late-term pregnancy: three women speak out. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/18/late-term-abortion-experience-donald-trump
- National Organization for Rare Disorders. (2008). Dandy Walker Malformation. Retrieved from: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/dandy-walker-malformation/
- HuffPost. (2017, October). What It’s Like To End A Pregnancy You Hoped For. Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-its-like-to-end-a-pregnancy-you-hoped-for_us_59c2c38de4b063b253178638
- Boston Children’s Hospital. (2012). Posterior Urethral Valves in Children. Retrieved from: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/posterior-urethral-valves
- Mayo Clinic. (2015, August). Atrioventricular canal defect. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrioventricular-canal-defect/basics/coping-support/con-20024932
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, September). Facts about Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD). Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/avsd.html
- Mayo Clinic. (2014, September). Morning sickness. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/morning-sickness/basics/definition/con-20033445
- Mayo Clinic. (2017, August). Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/idiopathic-thrombocytopenic-purpura/symptoms-causes/syc-20352325
- Mayo Clinic. (2015, March). Cardiomyopathy. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cardiomyopathy/basics/definition/con-20026819
Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.
The information provided here is general in nature. It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention. Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.