Objective: To test the hypothesis that grief responses do not differ between women who terminate their pregnancies for fetal anomalies and women who experience spontaneous perinatal losses.
Methods: A case-control study was conducted. Twenty-three women who underwent terminations through the genetics service of a tertiary referral obstetric hospital from January 1991 to April 1992 were assessed psychiatrically 2 months after the termination. The grief responses of these women on the Perinatal Grief Scale and the Beck Depression Inventory were compared to a demographically similar group of women assessed 2 months after they experienced spontaneous perinatal loss. Differences between the groups were assessed through one-way analysis of covariance.
Results: After matching women in the two groups, it became clear that women who terminated for fetal anomalies were significantly older than women in the comparison group, and age was inversely correlated with intensity of grief. Therefore, age was covaried in comparing the grief responses of women in the two groups. Neither statistically significant nor clinically meaningful differences were found in symptomatology between the groups. By the time of assessment, four of 23 women (17%) who terminated their pregnancies were diagnosed with a major depression, and five of 23 (22%) had sought psychiatric treatment.
Conclusions: Women who terminate pregnancies for fetal anomalies experience grief as intense as those who experience spontaneous perinatal loss, and they may require similar clinical management. Diagnosis of a fetal anomaly and subsequent termination may be associated with psychological morbidity.