A Swedish study has looked at the experience of fathers when a fetal abnormality is detected during a scan. Four key themes emerged:
- Despite shock, panic and disorientation, fathers often report hiding their feelings and concealing their own need for help, feeling their role is to be the strong one. This corroborates other earlier studies.
“I felt that I needed to be stable for my fiancée’s sake; depending on how she reacted I felt that I needed to be….more supportive than if I broke down myself.”
- Fathers want information and to be part of well-informed joint decision-making.
- Fathers feel a strong sense of emotional loss, at a same level as the mothers do one month after the discovery. The termination contradicts their instinct to care. Only one father out of the 12 interviewed reported feeling unsupported by the professionals involved.
“I’m still psychologically affected by it, naturally. I think most about the day when we had the abortion done. It is that day in particular that comes back to my mind.”
- Fathers want full information and full involvement in planning when a decision is made to continue the pregnancy.
The researchers make two key recommendations: (1) couple counselling before the next pregnancy, and (2) a family team-based approach to planning the next steps of a pregnancy that goes forward.
Carlsson T & Mattsson E (2018), Emotional and cognitive experiences during the time of diagnosis and decision-making following a prenatal diagnosis: a qualitative study of males presented with congenital heart defect in the fetus carried by their pregnant partner, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 18
Photo: Ben Raynal. Creative Commons.