During the last few decades, the use of ultrasonography for the detection of fetal abnormalities has become widespread in many industrialised countries. This resulted in a shift in timing of the diagnosis of congenital abnormalities in infants from the neonatal period to the prenatal period. This has major implications for both clinicians and the couples involved. In case of ultrasound diagnosis of fetal anomaly, there are several options for the obstetric management, ranging from standard care to non-aggressive care and termination of pregnancy. This essay explores the context of both clinical and parental decision making after ultrasound diagnosis of fetal abnormality, with emphasis on the Dutch situation. While normal findings at ultrasound examination have strong beneficial psychological effects on the pregnant woman and her partner, the couple is often ill prepared for bad news about the health of their unborn child in the case of abnormal findings. This is, in particular, true in settings where ultrasonography for the detection of fetal abnormalities is offered as an integral part of antenatal care without appropriate counselling. An important question is to what extent the couple should be supported in decision making when a fetal abnormality is diagnosed. In this context, the parental perception of having a choice varies markedly. When parents consider end-of-life decisions, they experience both ambivalent and emotional feelings. On the one hand, they are committed to their pregnancy, while on the other hand, they want to protect their child, themselves and the family from the burden of severe disability. These complex parental reactions have implications for the counselling strategy.

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doi.org/10.1007/s11296-007-0070-0, hdl.handle.net/1765/37075
European Clinics in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Bijma, H., van der Heide, A., & Wildschut, H. (2007). Decision-making after ultrasound diagnosis of fetal abnormality. European Clinics in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (Vol. 3, pp. 89–95). doi:10.1007/s11296-007-0070-0