Making an informed choice when faced with a prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition involves listening to your mind, body, and spirit. Dr. Shannon Abikhaled explains her role as a doctor: to support the decision of the parents.
In the normal prenatal care that I give my patients, we usually see you on your first visit and do an ultrasound, and that establishes our dating, and that’s done very early in the pregnancy. And then a little bit later on about 12 weeks, we do another ultrasound that we look at the spinal cord development, and also do some genetic testing.
With the ultrasound we’re able to see the development of the cranium, or the skull, and the spinal column. When you have a diagnosis of any kind that I feel is a terminal diagnosis, you really need to offer to the patient what’s available. You need to tell them, “You could have a termination, but you could also carry this baby to term. And whichever you choose, I’m there to walk with you through that journey, and to support you in that. It is not my place to judge which direction you go, it’s my place to hold your hand and walk you through that journey.”
I really feel like in these difficult decisions, that you should not even say, “Well, the medical literature says it’s better for you to terminate.” Well, maybe physically, but we have a mind and body, and a spirit, and so over time I’ve felt that the best way that you can walk with someone is let them choose, and support them as much as you can.
Once the baby’s born, we try to have as much bonding experience as we can. I really feel that the reality of the diagnosis, no matter what it is in a terminal diagnosis, is never quite as bad as your imagination of what it would be. I think sometimes we lose sight of the emotional benefit that it can be to actually come to term, and deliver, and to see what the reality of the diagnosis is.