Objective: The purpose of this article is to provide clinicians who are involved in the field of foetal medicine with a comprehensive overview of theories that are relevant for the parental decision-making process after ultrasound diagnosis of a serious foetal abnormality.
Methods: Since little data are available of parental decision-making after ultrasound diagnosis of foetal abnormality, we reviewed the literature on parental decision-making in genetic counselling of couples at increased genetic risk together with the literature on general decision-making theories. The findings were linked to the specific situation of parental decision-making after an ultrasound diagnosis of foetal abnormality.
Results: Based on genetic counselling studies, several cognitive mechanisms play a role in parental decision-making regarding future pregnancies. Parents often have a binary perception of risk. Probabilistic information is translated into two options: the child will or will not be affected. The graduality of chance seems to be of little importance in this process. Instead, the focus shifts to the possible consequences for future family life. General decision-making theories often focus on rationality and coherence of the decision-making process. However, studies of both the influence of framing and the influence of stress indicate that emotional mechanisms can have an important and beneficial function in the decision-making process.
Conclusion: Cognitive mechanisms that are elicited by emotions and that are not necessarily rational can have an important and beneficial function in parental decision-making after ultrasound diagnosis of a foetal abnormality. Consequently, the process of parental decision-making should not solely be assessed on the basis of its rationality, but also on the basis of the parental emotional outcome.
Copyright (c) 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel.