The Medical Process in Pregnancy Terminations for Fetal Anomaly: An Analysis of Counselling and Bereavement

J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2022 Jan;44(1):54-59. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2021.06.015. Epub 2021 Jul 31.


Objectives: Pregnancy termination for fetal anomaly (TOPFA) is a possible outcome of a pregnancy complicated by a fetal anomaly detected during routine prenatal care. Limited research is available on the quality of the counselling offered to women, in terms of enabling them to make an informed decision. The goal of this descriptive cohort study was to examine the medical process offered to a cohort of 151 women who underwent TOPFA in 2018 in a single tertiary mother and child hospital to identify areas for potential quality improvement.

Methods: Statistical analysis comprised basic statistical tests, Pearson's χ2 test, and logistic regression. Counselling was evaluated by two fetal health specialists.

Results: The counselling process was found to be minimal in 42% of cases. Counselling referrals to pediatric specialists were made in 26% of cases, with many potential explanations for this finding. Complicated bereavement was present in 39% of cases. Risk factors for complicated bereavement were explored and were found to be insufficient social support (odds ratio [OR] 6.5; 95% CI 2.0-21.0, P < 0.001), history of a mood disorder (OR 3.4; 95% CI 1.3-8.8, P < 0.01), and history of another TOPFA (OR 6.2; 95% CI 1.2-31.0, P = 0.01). Viewing the fetus after termination was not correlated with a significant reduction in complicated bereavement.

Conclusion: The evaluation of the counselling as minimal in 42% of cases and the high prevalence of complicated bereavement call for quality improvement in the process for women who undergo TOPFA. Clinicians should be able to screen women most at risk for complicated bereavement to best orient preventive care.

Keywords: bereavement; clinical ethics; prenatal diagnosis; prenatal genetic counseling; quality improvement; therapeutic abortion.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Bereavement*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Fetus
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy