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Nurs Inq. 1998 Jun;5(2):71-6.

Prenatal screening and women's perception of infant disability: a Sophie's Choice for every mother.

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1
University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.

Abstract

Prenatal screening can significantly benefit parents and the community. However, it has created a dilemma for women as it requires them to quickly decide whether to continue a pregnancy or terminate it should the test indicate a foetal abnormality. This can be psychologically traumatic for women torn between their connection to an unborn child with all its possible imperfections, and a desire to prevent its suffering as a disabled child in later life. A woman must also consider her own and her family's future welfare. Extensive research into the physical aspects of prenatal screening has not explored the meaning of the experience for women or whether termination is the most appropriate option. This article examines recent qualitative studies, concluding that women who terminate a pregnancy following prenatal screening may experience an acute grief reaction or be plagued by guilt and fear that can precipitate marital breakdown. Additionally, there is a risk that through striving to eradicate congenital disability, a community risks promoting a cult of perfectionism that may have discriminatory effects on disabled people.

PMID:
9923300
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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