Covid: Woman ‘heartbroken’ after terminating baby alone

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By Charlie Jones
BBC News

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image captionEmma and her husband James were devastated that they could not be together when they aborted their baby for medical reasons

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.css-14iz86j-BoldText{font-weight:bold;}A woman who had a termination alone because of Covid restrictions said no-one else should have to go through the “devastating” experience.

Emma Kemsley, from Saffron Walden, was told at a scan her baby boy was very unlikely to survive outside the womb.

Her husband James was not allowed to attend the scan or the termination, leaving them “heartbroken”.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said it hoped hospitals could be flexible.

Restrictions have recently been lifted on many maternity wards to allow partners to attend scans and during labour, but this would not always include terminations.

Mrs Kemsley, who has endometriosis, said she was overjoyed to fall pregnant after six rounds of IVF and was told at her 12-week scan the baby was healthy.

However, at an 18-week scan at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, in May, she found out his bladder was blocked and his lungs, kidneys and heart were not developing properly.

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image captionEmma and James had six rounds of IVF to conceive their baby boy

She said the sonographer said her son had very little chance of survival outside the womb and gave her the number for an abortion clinic, telling her she needed to arrange a termination herself.

Mrs Kemsley, 33, who is a magazine editor, said: “The hospital basically washed their hands of me. They were so clinical in their language and just told me to sort it out myself.

“I was completely alone and my husband James was in the car park. I had to break the news to him over speakerphone.”

Mrs Kemsley struggled to find a clinic because the procedure was complicated by her endometriosis and because she was so far on in the pregnancy.

She made a complaint to Addenbrooke’s and they eventually helped her find a specialist hospital where she could have the surgery.

“By this time, I was 20 weeks pregnant. It was just so scary and I felt so alone.

“James was desperate to support me but was forced to sit in the car park again.

“It was his baby too, he deserved to be there.”

Emma and Jamesimage copyrightEmma Kemsley
image captionJames said he was desperate to support his wife but could only watch from the sidelines

Mr Kemsley, 37, works as a personal development coach and has been helping men through similar experiences.

He said: “No one should have to hear about the loss of their child over speakerphone. I should have been by my wife’s side, supporting her, through every step of the process.”

Amanda Rowley, head of midwifery at Addenbrooke’s, said the hospital had aimed to handle the restrictions in “as sensitive and compassionate way as possible”.

She said: “We are deeply sorry if the care provided fell below the high standards that we set ourselves.”

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NHS England has recently written to hospitals asking them to allow partners to attend maternity units, after a campaign called for bans to be lifted.

However, restrictions remain in place in most hospitals for terminations, in line with the national guidance on inpatient visitors.

A spokesperson for RCOG said it had been an “incredibly difficult” time for women and their partners.

“Terminating a pregnancy because of a fetal condition can be a difficult experience, especially if women are having the procedure alone,” they said.

“We very much hope trusts and boards are able to be flexible and support women and their partners at this time.”

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