Prenatal diagnosis of congenital malformations and parental psychological distress--a prospective longitudinal cohort study

Prenat Diagn. 2006 Nov;26(11):1001-9. doi: 10.1002/pd.1542.


Objective: To test whether postnatal psychological distress in parents of babies with congenital malformations is reduced by prenatal diagnosis.

Methods: A prospective observational longitudinal cohort study was conducted at two Norwegian hospitals. We included 293 parents of babies with congenital malformations (prenatal detection rate: 36.5%) referred for neonatal surgery and 249 parents of healthy babies (comparison group). Parental psychological responses were assessed on three postnatal occasions by psychometric instruments (GHQ-28, STAI-X1, and IES).

Results: Significantly increased psychological distress (GHQ-28) was reported by parents who received prenatal diagnosis as compared to postnatal diagnosis; acutely 28.9 versus 24.4, P = 0.006 (comparison group: 19.6); at 6 weeks 26.8 versus 21.5, P < 0.001 (comparison group: 17.7); and at 6 months 22.6 versus 18.7, P = 0.015 (comparison group: 16.6). Mothers consistently reported higher levels of distress than fathers. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that prenatal diagnosis and being a mother significantly predicted severity of acute psychological distress. At 6 weeks and 6 months, mortality and associated anomalies were significant independent predictors of psychological distress.

Conclusion: Controlling for other covariates, we found that prenatal diagnosis of congenital malformations was a significant independent predictor of acute parental psychological distress after birth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnosis*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychological Tests
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*