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Journal Articles Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology Year : 2017

Breaking bad news in prenatal medicine: a literature review


Background: The diagnosis of a fetal anomaly in perinatal medicine forces expectant parents and healthcare providers to face the difficult process of breaking bad news. Objectives: This exploratory literature review was aimed at providing a medical and psychological view of the psychological experience in expectant parents and physicians in the context of prenatal diagnosis of a fetal anomaly. Method: An exploratory search of PubMed and PsycINFO/PsycARTICLES databases performed by an interdisciplinary team composed of a physician and psychologists. Search terms were: prenatal diagnosis AND bad news; prenatal diagnosis AND psychological consequences; prenatal diagnosis AND psychological sequelae; prenatal diagnosis AND fetal abnormality. The processing of selected articles followed a standardised five-step procedure. Results: A total of 860 articles were screened of which 32 were retained for analysis. Four main themes emerged from the explanatory content analysis: (1) parents' subjective experience; (2) physicians' subjective experience; (3) encounters between expectant parents and professionals; and (4) ethical challenges in breaking bad news in prenatal medicine. Conclusion: Expectant parents go through a complex and multidimensional experience when the diagnosis of a fetal anomaly is disclosed. Simultaneously, physicians consider breaking bad news as a very stressful event and are poorly prepared in this regard. A better knowledge of factors underlying psychological adjustment of the parental dyad and on the subjective experience of physicians delivering these diagnoses could enable better adaptation for both patients and professionals. Keywords: Prenatal diagnosis; bad news disclosure; healthcare professional’s subjective experience; interdisciplinary perspective; psychological consequences.
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Dates and versions

hal-02951263 , version 1 (28-09-2020)



Rita Luz, Astrid George, Elisabeth Spitz, Rachel Vieux. Breaking bad news in prenatal medicine: a literature review. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 2017, 35 (1), pp.14-31. ⟨10.1080/02646838.2016.1253052⟩. ⟨hal-02951263⟩
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