RESPONDING TO CHALLENGING QUESTIONS
It can be challenging to respond to complex patient questions. Here we will review some of the most common questions that arise. General guidelines are that you:
- Avoid assumptions
- Provide accurate information
- Remain sensitive to both verbal and non-verbal expressions of emotion
- Validate the person’s feelings
- Mirror the patient’s language (for example, if the person uses the term “procedure” for abortion, use the term “procedure”)
- Ask clarifying questions to assess person’s specific question
“What do you do with the pregnancy after the abortion?”
Examples of provider responses:
- “A lot of people ask about that.”
- “I examine the pregnancy tissue to make sure that you are no longer pregnant.” There is value to mirroring the patient’s language here. For example, if they used the term “baby”, you can mirror that language respectfully.
- If there are follow up questions you can say the pregnancy tissue is handled like tissue from any medical procedure. Sites have different policies for handling tissue based on local, state, and hospital policies.
“Can I see it?”
Many providers start by normalizing this desire, and showing the patient the pregnancy tissue. Many providers show it to the patient after clearing blood and decidual tissue, in a small open container. If asked what they can expect to see, consider describing what the tissue looks like at that stage, so they can make an informed choice about seeing it.
“Will this hurt the baby?”
Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester (Lee 2005). For people having a first-trimester abortion procedure, explaining the facts may alleviate this concern. For example, “No, this will not hurt the baby. At this point in the pregnancy, the fetal nervous system is not developed enough to feel pain.”