Antenatal diagnosis of congenital anomaly: a really traumatic experience?

J Perinatol. 2011 Dec;31(12):760-3. doi: 10.1038/jp.2011.22. Epub 2011 Apr 28.


Objective: With increasing use of routine prenatal ultrasound, prenatal counseling after diagnosis of congenital malformations is frequently offered to prospective parents. We aimed to assess if the communication of diagnosis of a congenital anomaly in the fetus meets American Psychiatric Association (APA) criteria for trauma in parents.

Study design: In the period ranging from 2003 to 2009 a preliminary investigation was conducted with 165 prospective mothers and 91 prospective fathers being interviewed after communication of diagnosis. Analysis of statements was made independently by two psychologists considering the APA definition of trauma.

Result: A total of 145 mothers and 76 fathers experienced the communication of diagnosis in their fetus as a traumatic event. There was no correlation between type of malformation and trauma nor was there statistical difference between mother and father regarding the stressor.

Conclusion: Communication of diagnosis of a fetal anomaly can be a traumatic event and should be dealt with consequently. Given the therapeutic value of sharing traumatic experience such practice should be encouraged as part of the consultation process.

MeSH terms

  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology