Objective: Congenital heart block may develop in the foetus during pregnancy in SSA/Ro52 autoantibody-positive women. The aim of this study was to investigate how women with SSA/Ro52 autoantibodies experience their pregnancy in terms of the risk of developing foetal heart block, and in undergoing serial ultrasound Doppler echocardiography to detect early signs of congenital heart block.
Methods: Data were collected through individual semi-structured interviews with SSA/Ro52-positive women post-pregnancy (n = 14). The interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim and analysed according to qualitative content analysis.
Results: Three categories emerged from the responses: information, emotional response and support. The information received prior to and during early pregnancy was focused on the need for attending a specialized antenatal clinic, and information on the risk for congenital heart block was scarce or missing. During gestational weeks 18–24, when the ultrasound/Doppler examinations were performed, all women described increased stress. However, the interaction with the caregivers made the women feel more safe and secure. Several women also said that they did not emotionally acknowledge the pregnancy until after gestational week 24. None had been offered psychological support.
Conclusion: There is a need for structured information and organized programmes for the surveillance of women who are SSA/Ro52 positive during their pregnancy. Further, offering psychological support to the women and their families to manage the stress and to facilitate the early attachment to the child should be considered. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.