Facts first, then reaction--expectant fathers' experiences of an ultrasound screening identifying soft markers

Midwifery. 2012 Oct;28(5):e667-75. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2011.07.008. Epub 2011 Sep 13.


Background: expectant fathers often attend pregnancy ultrasound but their needs are poorly examined, especially in connection with adverse findings.

Objective: to explore men's expectations of routine ultrasound and experiences when soft markers were discovered.

Design/setting: a qualitative study at Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden where semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 17 expectant fathers 6-12 weeks after the discovery of a soft marker at the routine ultrasound scan.

Findings: five major themes emerged: (1) 'immediate reaction: frustration and thoughts about consequences', (2) 'need for facts to gain control', (3) 'concern about the partner', (4) 'in retrospect: almost okay but routines need changing' and (5) 'amniocenteses or not: a joint decision with several considerations'.

Conclusions and implications for practise: these findings contribute important knowledge about men's needs related to pregnancy ultrasound with unexpected findings, and their role in decision-making concerning fetal diagnostics. Our results show that men enter a role of a kind of fact manager and have both a psychological need as well as the capacity to perceive important information during the process following the detection of a soft marker in the fetus. Practitioners conducting pregnancy ultrasound should therefore have relevant knowledge to be able to provide immediate information about soft markers, including risk assessment for chromosomal defects. In addition to this, written information about soft markers should be available to expecting parents in this situation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / psychology
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Midwifery / methods
  • Paternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Prenatal Care / methods
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Spouses / psychology
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / psychology*
  • Young Adult