Mile End Hospital
Review of TH CASH Clinic - MEH, written by a patient
5th September 2018
I had a medical abortion at the Sylvia Pankhurst Centre in July. I was impressed with how quick they were to respond - I got an initial appointment very quickly, and was booked in for a termination a few days after that. They have also been quick to provide me with post-termination counselling when I asked for it. During the medical abortion I felt well-looked after and attended to and the nurses treated me with a lot of kindness at what was a very difficult time in my life.
There are a few things that didn't go so well:
1. On day 1 (initial assessment) I was in the hospital for 3.5 hours, mainly just sitting and waiting. I had had to lie to work about the appointment and not knowing when I would be able to leave made this more difficult.
2. The leaflet I was given advertised that I would have the chance to talk through my feelings and options to help me consider what the best thing for me was. The website says, "On your first appointment at the clinic you will be given an opportunity to talk about your feelings, to get information about the procedures and to clarify any concerns you may have." In actual fact, no one asked about my circumstances or why I was considering an abortion, I was just asked for the practical details and information needed for me to have one (there was an assumption that I was 100% sure).
The nurse rolled her eyes when I told her that I'd been using the Natural Cycles app and when I asked if it was painful to have the coil fitted she said "you want to have an abortion, now that's painful". I wasn't actually 100% sure I wanted to have an abortion so this felt harsh. The nurse did ask if I was sure, as did the doctor, and both recorded that I had responded "no". Both mentioned that counselling was available, but didn't elaborate any further to tell me how to get this or if it would impact on how quickly I could have the abortion (I was concerned it would slow things down which is why I didn't ask for it).
Having seen the counsellor post termination, I wish I had spoken to her beforehand to help me make the decision and I wish that this had been part of the original assessment, as the literature advertises. The leaflets make it sound like the centre offers a holistic treatment, when really it's just physical, unless a patient specifically requests counselling. I was surprised that, when I went to take the first pill, the nurse didn't ask me again if I was sure, even though she must have had that information in my notes. It felt like there was a desire to just get the termination done, rather than to make sure this was definitely the best option for me.
3. The thing that I am most annoyed about now is that the nurse put quite a lot of pressure on me to decide what contraception I would use after the abortion. I am still unsure how I got pregnant as I was using condoms at the time I conceived and nothing obvious went wrong. I am 29 and have been practising safe sex using different methods of contraception for 14 years now. This pressure to decide on new contraception at the clinic made me feel a bit like a naughty school girl who'd stupidly had unprotected sex. Actually, I was completely confused about how it had happened and really upset and torn over the decision whether to keep the unplanned baby, given that I had planned to try for one in the next 2 years anyway.
Anyway, this pressure (and the fear of having to take even more time off work) led to me having a coil fitted on the same day as my termination. I didn't know what the coil looked like or really how it worked, and the doctor who fitted it did not tell me. I had been in the clinic all day and I was really tired and wanting to go home ASAP and the doctor chatted to the nurses in the clinic for 20 minutes before asking me to follow her to the treatment room. She then messed around with the fan and moved my clothing around the room 2 - 3 times before starting the procedure. She told me that she would be "very gentle" but the initial checks did not feel gentle. It wasn't until I asked "will my partner be able to feel the coil?" that she said "oh yes, I forgot to tell you that - he might" She also said "you will need to check your strings regularly". That was the extent of the information I got about the coil so that and I think I was too emotionally and physically drained to think to ask for more information. When the coil dislodged 2 weeks later (and I decided to "feel my strings" for the first time because the clinic had told me to wait 2 weeks before putting anything in my vagina), I was not able to detect that it had dislodged - I felt something hard coming out of my cervix and thought "maybe that's what the strings are supposed to feel like". I've just been to the doctors today and they've sent me home with the morning after pill and are going to fit a second coil as emergency contraception. This could have been avoided if I'd been given the full information about the coil and how to check it, etc at the Sylvia Pankhurst Centre in the first place.
I appreciate what the Centre did for me and the help and support I got, but there are some areas where that care and support were sadly lacking.