Prenatal diagnosis of congenital malformations and parental psychological distress—a prospective longitudinal cohort study




To test whether postnatal psychological distress in parents of babies with congenital malformations is reduced by prenatal diagnosis.


A prospective observational longitudinal cohort study was conducted at two Norwegian hospitals. We included 293 parents of babies with congenital malformations (prenatal detection rate: 36.5%) referred for neonatal surgery and 249 parents of healthy babies (comparison group). Parental psychological responses were assessed on three postnatal occasions by psychometric instruments (GHQ-28, STAI-X1, and IES).


Significantly increased psychological distress (GHQ-28) was reported by parents who received prenatal diagnosis as compared to postnatal diagnosis; acutely 28.9 versus 24.4, P = 0.006 (comparison group: 19.6); at 6 weeks 26.8 versus 21.5, P < 0.001 (comparison group: 17.7); and at 6 months 22.6 versus 18.7, P = 0.015 (comparison group: 16.6). Mothers consistently reported higher levels of distress than fathers. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that prenatal diagnosis and being a mother significantly predicted severity of acute psychological distress. At 6 weeks and 6 months, mortality and associated anomalies were significant independent predictors of psychological distress.


Controlling for other covariates, we found that prenatal diagnosis of congenital malformations was a significant independent predictor of acute parental psychological distress after birth. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.