Background and methodology: UK regulations on managing fetal tissue after pregnancy loss, including abortion, are underscored by the concept of ‘sensitive disposal’. This involves offering women burial or cremation and, when disposal is by the health care provider, separating fetal tissue from other clinical waste before incineration. We interviewed 23 women who had undergone one or more abortions about their understanding, attitudes and experiences of fetal tissue disposal and ‘sensitive disposal’. Transcripts were analysed for representative themes.Just bear in mind this is a small study, and two of the authors work for the BPAS, Britian's public abortion provider.
Results: Prior to the abortion, most participants did not give consideration to disposal methods because their focus was on ending the pregnancy. Appropriate disposal by health professionals was assumed but some women undergoing early medical abortion reported anxiety about how to manage disposal at home. The term ‘sensitive disposal’ was unfamiliar to most respondents. Participants generally favoured separation of fetal tissue from other clinical waste and approved of incineration as a means of destruction. Ceremonial disposal was approved of following the loss of a wanted pregnancy but not following elective abortion. Most wanted the opportunity to access information about disposal but did not favour being asked or required to make decisions about disposal.
Discussion and conclusions: Knowledge about the management of fetal tissue after abortion or the concept of ‘sensitive disposal’ was limited among the women we interviewed. Current guidelines appear discordant with the views of women terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Further research is needed to better inform policy on this issue.
Disposal of fetal tissue following elective abortion: what women think
J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care jfprhc-2013-100849Published Online First: 8 September 2014