The need for the termination of a pregnancy should be based on medical grounds, such as a risk to the mother’s health or life or due to the inevitability of a non-viable foetus – one that will not live beyond a certain point of development in utero. In many parts of the West, however, a termination may be considered if the mother might undergo psychological duress or if the child will be born with anything but normality. Many societies do not allow termination at all and others only if life-threatening physical conditions exist.

Termination of pregnancy is an emotive subject but from a holistic point of view it needs to be considered from four angles.

The body aspect

Pregnancy confers a marked change in hormonal profile in women. The well-known female hormones oestrogen and progesterone maintain high levels and, as any woman who struggles with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) will tell you, many changes go on throughout the system. A termination suddenly removes the control mechanism, the body goes through a sudden drop and many of the changes that were taking place will cease, creating some biochemical confusion. These are corrected over a period of time but a variety of symptoms ranging from tiredness, headaches, mood swings, water retention, abdominal pains and skin changes may occur.

A termination is generally performed by inserting a vacuum-like instrument through the cervix into the lumen of the uterus and extracting the contents through a sucking action. The embryo or foetus is pulled out with the inner lining of the uterus. The body has to deal with this injury as well as with the effects of the anaesthetic on the nervous system and liver. Repair of all of these areas is necessary and requires both energy and building materials.

Any operation carries a risk and a problem with the procedure or the introduction of infection into the uterus may lead to illness and sterility if the uterus or Fallopian tubes become scarred.

The psychological aspect

Every individual is different and will relate to the concept of a termination differently. Parental values, religious teachings, social status and peer pressure will all alter the ease or difficulty with which one comes to terms with an abortion. Very few women find the decision easy and this is compounded by the natural fear of a general anaesthetic and operative procedure.

The conflict with social and religious doctrines inevitably creates a dilemma and there is rarely a termination that does not have its supporters and critics.

The spiritual aspect

There is no right or wrong outside of one’s beliefs but most human beings have a high respect for life and a termination distinctly goes against that innate pre-disposition’. All religions, supposedly derived from spiritual values, will criticize (and in many countries ostracize) a woman who undergoes a termination. A decision must come from the depths of the soul of the individual.

The Hindus profess that a spirit chooses its parents and that a karmic (vital force) connection is made even before conception. A termination severs this bond and, unless the soul returns in a later pregnancy, that experience and energy will be lost, at least for this lifetime. I do not think that the Hindu spirituality is greater than any other doctrine, but looking at the situation from this point of view may alter the perception that a termination is not a deeply spiritual conundrum. It is.

The partner aspect

Sadly, all too often, the male plants the seed and then he leaves. Men who behave in this way claim that it is a natural response and that masculine animals have many mates and that they are simply obeying an acceptable male instinct. Absolute rubbish. This is self-denial designed to alleviate the potential for responsibility that most males fear so markedly in comparison with the female of our species. The truth of the matter is that males in the animal kingdom rarely plant a seed without accepting the responsibility of protecting and nurturing their offspring.

Nevertheless, if this attitude happens to be that of a specific partner then there is little that can be done and, quite frankly, his opinion should be discarded in favour of friends and family who are around to give support; no energy or time should be wasted on chasing the aberrant male. 1 would like to think that the majority of partners who find their mate pregnant in a socially unacceptable situation will take an important role in supporting the decision of the woman. A burden shared is a burden halved, they say, and although I do not think that the division is quite 50/50 in the case of a termination, all and any support is beneficial.

Closely review the spiritual aspects of termination. Only each individual can do this and they should not be led by any social doctrines or pressures. If a connection with the life growing inside is there at all, termination should not be considered.

Psychological considerations may be made easier by asking the question: Do I feel that a termination is the right approach or do I think it is? Always go with your feelings. It is much easier to look back on a mistake and say 7 did what I felt was right’ rather than have to deal with ‘I did what I thought was right’. Remember that suppression of emotion creates illness, but making a mistake does not.

Remember that a possible side effect of a termination is sterilization. Terminating a pregnancy may lead to a life barren of children.

Consult a counsellor or health practitioner with whom you have a connection. Discuss your emotional state fully and ensure that any decision is reached after complete and absolute discussion by looking at the problem from both sides of the fence.

Do not surround yourself with friends who support only one side of the debate. You may be covering guilt by obtaining moral support for a decision that you are not certain about.

A termination may be performed at an early stage of pregnancy by chemical induction with high doses of progesterone-like drugs. These have the side effects of nausea, vomiting, headaches and other unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal pains, and they work by disrupting the chemical balance required for pregnancy and encouraging contraction of the uterus. Menstruation (a period) is the outcome. If chemical termination is used, see Heavy and painful periods and follow the advice.

If a termination is to be performed by operative procedure, generally this is necessary after the eighth week of a pregnancy called Toxoplasma gondii, which is widely distributed in nature and can cause foetal developmental problems as well as infections within individuals.

Clinical manifestations of damage include enlarged liver and spleen, blindness, cysts, mental retardation and the development of too large or too small a brain. Problems may be apparent soon after birth or develop later on in life. In the acquired form, a fever with a rash, enlarged glands, enlarged liver and spleen and an inflamed eye may occur. If serious, the infection may affect the brain or the heart.

Toxoplasmosis is spread predominantly by animal faeces and especially those of cats. Owners of dogs and cats should be particularly and specifically wary, especially prior to an intended pregnancy.

In the unfortunate circumstance that a toxoplasmosis blood test shows positive in a pregnant woman, there is a need for further investigation to pinpoint when the infection took place. Toxoplasmosis can have a devastating effect on a foetus in the first trimester. The infection can lead to growth defects, brain damage and death. Once the placenta has formed (usually by 12-13 weeks), it is harder for the infection to get into the baby but transmission does occur and can lead to other damage, including blindness, limb growth retardation and less serious brain effects.

Calculating when an infection took place is therefore paramount because a decision to terminate on medical grounds may be considered. Pinpointing the time of infection is done by taking blood samples from the mother at an interval of at least three weeks apart. A current infection will have a rising level of antibodies against toxoplasmosis, and the amount of antibodies and the speed with which it is being produced give a clue as to when infection took place. The level of antibodies, known as the titre, will remain stable if the infection was from some time ago but will rise if the infection was more recent. If toxoplasmosis is suspected, ultrasound will give a clear definition of any obvious brain damage or limb defects but cannot illustrate conditions such as blindness.

It is currently not common practice in Britain to test pregnant women for toxoplasmosis as a general rule. I think this is wrong and any woman who owns or has been in contact with animals, especially domestic cats, should be tested for antibodies before conception and at the end of the third trimester.

Prior to becoming pregnant and during a pregnancy a blood test should be done to test for the presence of Toxoplasma.

If any of the main symptoms are present in conjunction with a positive blood test for toxoplasmosis, an antibiotic treatment should be taken.

Consult a complementary medical practitioner for treatment to run alongside orthodox antibiotic care .

If pregnant and a positive test is found but no symptoms are present, then consult your obstetrician and ask to be put in touch with the area or national specialist for toxoplasmosis. He/she will be able to advise you on the chances of a problem and also as to the best treatment.

Your preferred complementary medical practitioner should be consulted to boost the immune system and deal with the possible use of antibiotics and, if you are pregnant, to advise you on the best counsellor for the inevitable anxiety that will be present.