Systematic review of the literature: parental outcomes after diagnosis of fetal anomaly

Adv Neonatal Care. 2011 Jun;11(3):182-92. doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e31821bd92d.


Advancing technology has made detecting fetal abnormalities in the first and second trimesters a reality. Few families are prepared for the difficult decisions that must be made if their unborn children are diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Expectant parents are compelled to make decisions on the basis of limited options. A systematic review of the literature is presented with an aim to inform clinicians of parental experiences and outcomes after diagnosis of a fetal anomaly. The review focused on patients given a diagnosis for fetal anomalies for the 40-year period from 1970 to 2010 by using the key words such as fetal anomaly, congenital malformations, pregnancy termination, perinatal palliative care, and perinatal hospice. Regardless of the option taken, women often experienced intense grief reactions. Both giving birth to a child with a life-limiting condition and termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly can be emotionally traumatic life events, both associated with psychological morbidity. Nonaggressive obstetric management, allowing natural birth without life-sustaining therapeutics, is an option for families. Couples presented with a coordinated perinatal palliative care model may opt to continue their pregnancy. Families who experienced perinatal hospice/palliative care report positive feedback, but more research is needed to explore the psychological outcomes of this choice.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Eugenic / psychology*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnosis
  • Congenital Abnormalities / psychology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Fathers / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / psychology
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Prenatal Diagnosis