Objective: The aim of the article is to examine the psychological impact, specifically symptoms of grief, post-traumatic stress and depression, in women and men who either terminated or continued a pregnancy following prenatal diagnosis of a lethal fetal defect.
Method: This project investigated a diagnostically homogeneous group composed of 158 women and 109 men who lost a pregnancy to anencephaly, a lethal neural tube defect. Participants completed the Perinatal Grief Scale, Impact of Event Scale - Revised and Beck Depression Inventory-II, which measure symptoms of grief, post-traumatic stress and depression, respectively. Demographics, religiosity and pregnancy choices were also collected. Gender-specific analysis of variance was performed for instrument total scores and subscales.
Results: Women who terminated reported significantly more despair (p = 0.02), avoidance (p = 0.008) and depression (p = 0.04) than women who continued the pregnancy. Organizational religious activity was associated with a reduction in grief (Perinatal Grief Scale subscales) in both women (p = 0.02, p = 0.04 and p = 0.03) and men (p = 0.047).
Conclusion: There appears to be a psychological benefit to women to continue the pregnancy following a lethal fetal diagnosis. Following a lethal fetal diagnosis, the risks and benefits, including psychological effects, of termination and continuation of pregnancy should be discussed in detail with an effort to be as nondirective as possible.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.