Pregnancy and baby

Termination for foetal abnormality

If tests show that your baby has a serious abnormality, find out as much as you can from your doctor about the particular condition and how it might affect your baby. Some couples wish to continue with the pregnancy and try to prepare for the needs of their newborn baby, while others decide to terminate the pregnancy (have an abortion).

You will probably be very shocked when you are first told the diagnosis and may find it hard to take in. You may need to go back and talk to the doctor with your partner or someone close to you. Spend some time thinking things through. You may find it helpful to get in touch with the charity Antenatal Results and Choices

What happens

A termination in the first three months (up until you are 12 weeks pregnant) can be done by an operation under a general anaesthetic. Some units offer surgical termination of pregnancy beyond 12 weeks. Later in pregnancy, a termination usually involves taking tablets, which stimulate the uterus (womb) to contract, and the foetus and placenta are delivered vaginally. This is called a medical termination of pregnancy.

Your midwife or doctor will discuss what method would be best for you. You may wish to think beforehand about whether you want to see and perhaps hold your baby, and whether you want to give your baby a name.

If you don't want to see the baby, you could ask hospital staff to take a photograph for you in case you change your mind in the future. The photograph can be kept in your notes.

This is only possible with a medical termination of pregnancy, which allows for a detailed examination of the baby (post mortem). This may be important to determine the exact nature of the baby's abnormalities. This may help your doctor to determine the chance of a future baby having a similar problem.


You may find it hard to cope after a termination. It can help to talk, but sometimes family and friends find it difficult to understand what you're going through. If you'd like to make contact with people who have had a similar experience, Antenatal Results and Choices can help. has video interviews with women talking about their decision to end their pregnancy due to foetal abnormality.

Read more about abortion, including how it is carried out, and the risks.

Page last reviewed: 18/03/2015

Next review due: 19/03/2018


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