Background. Much has been written about the anxiety of pregnant women undergoing maternal serum screening, but little has focused on the maternal self.
Aims. The purpose of this study was to explore how the maternal self was affected by abnormal results of prenatal screening.
Design. A qualitative design was used, based upon a grounded theory method.
Methods. Twenty-seven women undergoing maternal serum screening engaged in qualitative interviews about how abnormal results affected them and their family life.
Results. This study identified three forms of maternal self in women who had been informed of abnormal results of maternal serum screening. The three forms of maternal self could be described as self-stigmatizing, self-conflicting and self-knowledgeable.
Conclusion. The self-stigmatizing and self-conflicting resulted from painful body image. The pregnant women responded to this vulnerability by reflecting on their experiences and constituting self-knowledgeable.
Relevance to clinical practice. This study demonstrated that ethical issues were implicit in prenatal counselling in terms of various forms of maternal self. Understanding the self-perceptions of pregnant women coping with an increased risk of Down Syndrome could be very significant in delivering prenatal genetic counselling.