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Termination of pregnancy: Patients' perceptions of care
  1. Pauline Slade, BSc, MSc, PhD, FBPsS, Reader in Clinical Psychology/Consultant Clinical Psychologist,
  2. Sarah Heke, BA, Psychology Assistant,
  3. Joanne Fletcher, RGN, BA, MA, Nurse Practitioner and
  4. Peter Stewart, MA, BM, BCL, FRCOG, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  1. Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield and Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence Dr P Slade, Reader in Clinical Psychology/Consultant Clinical Psychologist for Community Health Sheffield, Clinical Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology, The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TP, UK. Tel: 0114 222 6568, Fax: 0114 222 6610, email: p.slade{at}


Background Little is known about women's perceptions of care in termination of pregnancy (TOP). Developing an understanding of how care is experienced is crucial to improvements in services.

Method Two hundred and eight women undergoing either a medical or surgical TOP reported on their perspectives of the experience and the care received. A mix of questionnaire and open questions analysed by content analysis was used. Women reported on the aspects which were most stressful, helped them to feel more relaxed, were unexpected in some way, and also on the provision of information and on the quality of staff care.

Results The most stressful aspects for the medical group related to the physical and emotional aspects of the process, whilst for the surgical group it concerned waiting in hospital for the operation. Whilst little was unexpected for the surgical group, many aspects came as a surprise to the medical group. Seeing the foetus was particularly difficult. All information provided was viewed as helpful, with greater information required about the phase following termination. Care from staff was rated positively, although areas for improvement in terms of opportunity to ask questions and ensuring concerns were dealt with were identified. Caring and non-judgemental staff attitudes were viewed as particularly important in helping women to feel as relaxed as possible in a potentially stressful situation.

Conclusion Surgical termination schedules should avoid a long waiting time once the woman has been admitted. More adequate preparation is required for those having medical termination so that they have realistic expectations of what will happen, including the possibility of seeing the foetus. More attention to information about the time following termination, including possible emotional responses, is needed. The importance of positive staff attitudes in the quality of care is emphasised.

  • abortion
  • care
  • patient perspective
  • termination of pregnancy

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