A mother who took an abortion pill to remove what doctors said were the remains of her dead baby received a total shock when, two days later, a scan revealed the baby was in fact alive.
Pregnant Catherine Urhegyi, 32, visited her doctor for a routine ultrasound to determine her unborn second child’s due date. During the scan, the doctor informed her there was no heartbeat and gave her three options.
“She couldn’t detect any heartbeat and in fact said she believed the pregnancy had already started to disintegrate,” Urhegyi recalled to The Daily Mail. “I was told I had three options. I could let a miscarriage occur naturally, which could take weeks, I could have a dilatation and curettage — an operation under a general anaesthetic to empty my uterus — or I could take a pill to induce labour.”
“I’d gone along expecting to see a baby on the scan,” Urhegyi said. “I hadn’t been expecting bad news. So I was stunned to be told there was no heartbeat. I just burst into tears.”
Urhegyi and her husband, Andrew Urhegyi, reluctantly agreed to an induced abortion and she took medication to start the process.
“I chose the pill because it meant that I could stay at home and wouldn’t have to leave Thomas,” she said, referring to her 2-year-old son.
The medication prescribed to Urhegyi was the drug mifepristone. It is taken orally and works by blocking the hormone progesterone. The lack of progesterone causes the lining of the uterus to break down, making it unable to support a fetus. A second drug, misoprostol, is administered two days later that brings on contractions that expel what remains of the pregnancy.
Two days after taking the first pill, and following an incident of heavy bleeding, Urhegyi went back to the doctor to complete the abortion by taking misoprostol.
To the shock of all, a heartbeat was discovered during an ultrasound performed before the second abortion-inducing drug was administered.
“As she did the scan the woman looked concerned," Urhegyi said. "She left and returned with a colleague. After pointing out something on the screen, the colleague nodded and left. The woman then turned to me and said she’d found a heartbeat and estimated I was around seven weeks pregnant. I was amazed and overjoyed. But seconds later I was overcome with shock because I began to worry about how the drug might have harmed my baby."
Urhegyi’s unborn baby girl had miraculously survived the now ill-advised abortion.
It is possible the heavy bleeding Urhegyi suffered was a miscarriage of a possible twin — killed by the procedure.
Urhegyi and her husband now face the unknown as there is no way to know whether the abortion medication will cause their unborn daughter long-term health problems.
They have been warned by doctors that their daughter may suffer birth defects because the abortion pill was administered in the critical first 12 weeks of fetal development.
They were given the option to continue with the abortion to avoid the possibility of giving birth to a child with birth defects.
“A consultant came in and said it was our decision, but due to the possible harm our baby may have suffered from the pill, it was still an option to continue with the abortion," the mother said. However, there was no way, having seen my baby’s heart beating on a scan, I could carry on.”
The couple's decision to share their experience was done out of hope that hospitals will ensure they perform a second scan with a different sonographer, if there is reason to believe a baby has died in the womb.
“To say this has ruined my pregnancy would be an understatement,” now 26-weeks pregnant Urhegyi said. “Our little girl is a much-wanted baby and we are extremely worried she won’t now be born healthy. We are incredibly angry and upset. We can’t understand how doctors could have made such a big error … In hindsight we believe a scan should have been carried out before I took the pill to double-check the diagnosis that the baby had died.”
For now, Urhegyi is trying to move past what happened.
“I am trying to put what happened to the back of my mind and be positive but then I have moments of despair at night when I fear the worst," she said. "It is very hard. We have found ourselves in a nightmare situation which could have been avoided. We only hope getting this out into the open will ensure no one suffers as we have," Urhegyi said.
The hospital launched an investigation into the matter, and offered their apologies to Urhegyi.
“We again apologise unreservedly to Mrs Urhegyi for the error and the distress this has undoubtedly caused, " Jack Sharp, executive director at Salford Royal, said. "We immediately launched an investigation to understand how the incident happened and how we could prevent it occurring again. This has now concluded and a member of our senior nursing team has arranged to meet with Mrs Urhegyi in person to share those findings.”