Women's experiences of coping with pregnancy termination for fetal abnormality

Qual Health Res. 2013 Jul;23(7):924-36. doi: 10.1177/1049732313484198. Epub 2013 Apr 4.


Pregnancy termination for fetal abnormality (TFA) can have significant psychological consequences. Most previous research has been focused on measuring the psychological outcomes of TFA, and little is known about the coping strategies involved. In this article, we report on women's coping strategies used during and after the procedure. Our account is based on experiences of 27 women who completed an online survey. We analyzed the data using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Coping comprised four structures, consistent across time points: support, acceptance, avoidance, and meaning attribution. Women mostly used adaptive coping strategies but reported inadequacies in aftercare, which challenged their resources. The study's findings indicate the need to provide sensitive, nondirective care rooted in the acknowledgment of the unique nature of TFA. Enabling women to reciprocate for emotional support, promoting adaptive coping strategies, highlighting the potential value of spending time with the baby, and providing long-term support (including during subsequent pregnancies) might promote psychological adjustment to TFA.

Keywords: abortion; bereavement / grief; coping and adaptation; interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA); lived experience; perinatal health; pregnancy; psychology; research, online; research, qualitative.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Eugenic / methods
  • Abortion, Eugenic / psychology*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Bereavement
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Gravidity
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom