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Midwifery. 2013 Jan;29(1):24-32. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2011.10.006. Epub 2012 Sep 29.

What parents say about disclosing the end of their pregnancy due to fetal abnormality.

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Alliance for Self Care Research, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, United Kingdom.



to describe men's and women's experiences of deciding whether to tell people in their social network, including their children, about their pregnancy loss following a termination for fetal abnormality.


secondary analysis of qualitative narrative interview data informed by a critical realist approach.


respondents were recruited throughout the United Kingdom and interviewed at home between 2004 and 2005.


twenty-eight women and nine men who had ended a pregnancy diagnosed with a fetal abnormality and who talked about disclosing or not disclosing the termination to others.


few respondents reported having any advice or information about whether or how to disclose their termination. None said they completely concealed their decision from adults in their social network; most said they disclosed selectively, telling close friends and family they had terminated and acquaintances they had miscarried. Most respondents reported telling their young children that the baby had died but did not reveal that they had chosen to end the pregnancy. A minority had not told their existing offspring about the pregnancy loss. Common reasons given for (partially) concealing a termination were: guilt over the decision; to avoid being judged; and to protect other people's feelings. Common reasons for disclosure were: others knew of the pregnancy; needing time off work; needing practical help and/or emotional support during diagnosis and termination; and wanting recognition of their loss. Positive consequences of disclosure were said to be getting more support and less criticism than expected; negative consequences included not getting the anticipated support and empathy; and encountering disapproval. Some respondents felt that concealing their pregnancy loss from their children had resulted in their confusion over the cause of their parents' distress. Some men said they found it hard to access emotional support from their social networks because of expectations about how men 'should' deal with emotions.


midwives have to make difficult judgements about what, how and when to provide information when trying to support and advise parents who have ended a pregnancy due to fetal abnormality. Further education and training in this area could be of benefit. Midwives could signpost parents to existing sources of advice around disclosure, taking into account parents' individual preferences, help parents to consider the potential implications of disclosure and concealment and different ways of disclosing. They could also recommend alternative sources of emotional support, bearing in mind that men in particular may find it harder to access support from their social networks.

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