• bad news;
  • caregiver;
  • personal communication;
  • prenatal care;
  • sonography



To determine what women value when receiving news of a pregnancy abnormality detected by ultrasound.


Women who had a pregnancy complication detected sonographically in the year 2000 were asked to complete a survey of 21 questions measuring the importance of various factors related to the receipt of bad news. Of the target sample of 117 women who agreed to participate, 76 (64.9%) returned completed surveys. Cases included serious anomalies (67%) and soft markers/obstetric complications (33%).


Responses to questions on ‘information quality’, ‘prompt provision of information’, ‘information-provider behavior’ and ‘information provision environment’ showed that women attached the most importance to information quality, much more so than to promptness. Speed was even less important than information-provider empathy. Answers concerning use of the terms ‘fetus’ or ‘baby’ revealed greater variation in preferences than any other. Privacy was the most important environmental variable, more important than some information quality variables, or any promptness variable. Intervening variables considered included demographic variables and the seriousness of the prognosis. Education was the most useful predictor of preferences, with highly educated women generally placing less value on environment and some information quality variables, and having different preferences concerning the terms ‘fetus’ and ‘baby’.


Our findings shed some light on what is important to women who face bad news. Although more research is needed in this important area, we hope that our findings may assist institutions and caregivers in establishing guidelines for the effective and considerate communication of bad news. Copyright © 2003 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.