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Long-term psychological consequences of pregnancy termination for fetal abnormality: a cross-sectional study

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Abstract

Objective

We examined women's long-term psychological well-being after termination of pregnancy (TOP) for fetal anomaly in order to identify risk factors for psychological morbidity.

Methods

A cross-sectional study was performed in 254 women, 2 to 7 years after TOP for fetal anomaly before 24 weeks of gestation. We used standardised questionnaires to investigate grief, posttraumatic symptoms, and psychological and somatic complaints.

Results

Women generally adapted well to grief. However, a substantial number of the participants (17.3%) showed pathological scores for posttraumatic stress. Low-educated women and women who had experienced little support from their partners had the most unfavourable psychological outcome. Advanced gestational age at TOP was associated with higher levels of grief, and posttraumatic stress symptoms and long-term psychological morbidity was rare in TOP before 14 completed weeks of gestation. Higher levels of grief and doubt were found if the fetal anomaly was presumably compatible with life.

Conclusion

Termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly is associated with long-lasting consequences for a substantial number of women. Clinically relevant determinants are gestational age, perceived partner support, and educational level. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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