The Image of the Fetus in the First Trimester


  • Judith Lumley M.A., M.B., B.S., Ph.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Born in Wales, studied medicine at Cambridge University, and moved to Australia in 1965 where she completed her medical degree.
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  • She began as a fetal physiologist working on fetal acidosis in labor, but has now become more interested in the links between physiology, behavior and obstetric care. Her current research interest is how to evaluate perinatal care.

Dr. Lumley is married, has three children, and is actively involved in parent and professional education.


ABSTRACT: Thirty women pregnant for the first time were interviewed during the first trimester to determine their image of and feeling toward their fetuses. Most women grossly underestimated the size and development of the fetus as well as its activities, attributing “formless,”“unattractive” and animal-like features to it. Only 9 of the 30 women thought the fetus to be a real person at this stage of pregnancy. These women predicted they would feel grief if the fetus were miscarried, were more anxious about possible abnormality, more willing to abstain from intercourse to protect the fetus, thought the fetus could affect the mother, and were less ambivalent or unhappy when the pregnancy was confirmed. These 9 women differed from the other 21 in being from larger families or having jobs, such as nursing, which involved nurturing skills. The implications of these feelings or lack of them toward the fetus in the first trimester is discussed.