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Women's Experiences of Unexpected Ultrasound Findings


  • Lisa M. Mitchell PhD

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Lisa M. Mitchell, PhD, is a medical anthropologist in the Anthropology Department, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada. One area of her research focuses on reproductive technology, ultrasound, and perinatal loss.

Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria, Victoria BC, Canada V8W 3P5. E-mail:


Ultrasound imaging is an important screening and diagnostic tool in prenatal care, but for many couples in Canada and the United States, it is primarily a meaningful social ritual of seeing and meeting their baby. This article examines how women perceive ultrasound when they receive unexpected abnormal ultrasound findings. Drawing from qualitative analysis of semistructured interviews with 42 Canadian women, the article discusses women's reactions to receiving unexpected findings, and their perspectives on disclosure of results and on seeing the impaired fetus. Implications are discussed for practitioners regarding prescan counseling, informed choice, and disclosure of abnormal ultrasound findings.