Experiences of prenatal diagnosis and decision-making about termination of pregnancy: A qualitative study

Jan Margaret Hodgson, Penelope Pitt, Sylvia Ann Metcalfe, Jane Lavinia Halliday, Melody Menezes, Jane Rosamond Woodward Fisher, Chriselle Hickerton, Kerry Petersen, Belinda McClaren

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47 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Advances in genetic technologies and ultrasound screening techniques have increased the ability to predict and diagnose congenital anomalies during pregnancy. As a result more prospective parents than ever before will receive a prenatal diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. Little is known about how Australian women and men experience receiving a prenatal diagnosis and how they make their decision about whether or not to continue the pregnancy.

Aims: This qualitative study aims to describe parental experiences and examine how best to provide support after a prenatal diagnosis.

Results: Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with 102 women and men approximately six weeks post-diagnosis of fetal abnormality. Data were elicited using a narrative, chronological approach and women (n = 75) and a sample of male partners (n = 27) were separately interviewed. Thematic analysis, involving a rigorous process of qualitative coding,enabled iterative development and validation of emergent themes.Participants identified that the shock of the diagnosis can be lessened when good care is delivered, by provision of: clear, accurate and respectful communication; empathic, non-judgemental, professional support; timely access to further testing and appointments; seamless interactions with services and administration; appropriate choices about invasive testing; acknowledgment of the enormity and unexpected nature of the diagnosis, and of the subsequent decision-making challenges; and discussion of the myriad feelings likely to emerge throughout the process.

Conclusions: This study has demonstrated the importance of providing timely access to accurate information and supportive, non-judgemental care for women and their partners following prenatal diagnosis of a fetal abnormality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-613
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Decision-making
  • Fetal abnormality
  • Prenatal diagnosis
  • Qualitative
  • Termination of pregnancy

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