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J Adv Nurs. 2008 Oct;64(2):185-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04778.x.

A grounded theory study of information preference and coping styles following antenatal diagnosis of foetal abnormality.

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  • 1School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.



This paper is a report of a study to explore the information-seeking behaviour of women following an antenatal diagnosis of foetal abnormality.


The identification of a foetal abnormality on routine ultrasound in pregnancy is both shocking and distressing for women, and seeking information in this stressful situation is a common response. There is evidence that women's information needs are not always adequately met, and in some cases they recall little from the initial consultation.


A longitudinal study involving 42 women was conducted using a classical grounded theory design. Data were collected in 2004-2006 through in-depth interviews at three time intervals: within 4-6 weeks of diagnosis, 4-6 weeks before the birth and 6-12 weeks postnatally.


Women described their main concern from diagnosis until the time to give birth in terms of regulating the information received in order to cope with the situation. Two main categories were identified: 'Getting my head around it' and 'I'll cross that bridge when I come to it'. These two differing information-seeking preferences are described as monitoring and blunting.


Matching of information preferences with coping styles may support individuals to cope with this stressful event. Women with high information needs (monitors) respond well to detail. However, those with information avoidance behaviours (blunters) should be facilitated to 'opt-in' to information when they are ready, in order to reduce the stress caused by perceived information overload.

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