Termination of pregnancy following a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome: A qualitative study of the decision-making process of pregnant couples

Stina Lou; Kathrine Carstensen; Olav Bjørn Petersen; Camilla Palmhøj Nielsen; Lone Hvidman; Maja Retpen Lanther; Ida Vogel

Introduction: In Denmark, first trimester screening has a very high uptake (up to 90 %). If Down syndrome is diagnosed, termination rates are high (up to 95 %). The aim of this study was to investigate the timing of the decision to terminate pregnancy following a diagnosis of Down syndrome and the factors influencing this decision. Material and methods: Semi-structured, qualitative interview study with 21 couples who had received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and decided to terminate the pregnancy. Participants were recruited from obstetric departments between February 2016 and July 2017. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: Five themes were identified: “initial decision-making”, “consolidating the decision”, “reasons and concerns shaping the termination of pregnancy decision”, “the right decision is also burdensome”, and “perceived influences in decision-making”. For most couples, the initial decision to terminate pregnancy was made before or during the diagnostic process, but it was re-addressed and consolidated following the actual diagnosis. Imagining a family future with a severely affected Down syndrome child was the main factor influencing the termination of pregnancy decision. The decision was articulated as “right” but also as existentially burdensome for some, due to fear of regret and concern about ending a potential life. The decision to terminate pregnancy was considered a private matter between the couple, but was refined through interactions with clinicians and social networks. Conclusion: All couples made an initial decision prior to receiving the Down syndrome diagnosis. Knowledge of the couple's initial decision may facilitate patient-centered communication during and after the diagnostic process. Couples may benefit from counseling to deal with grief and existential concerns.

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År 2018
Udgiver Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica