Women are more likely to be diagnosed with congenital anomalies due to advances in new technologies in medical science. Following prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormalities, women may be forced to make decisions about whether to continue a pregnancy with fetal abnormalities. This can be a dilemma for the women. The aim of the study was to explore women’s experiences of prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormalities. A qualitative study was conducted in a referral women’s hospital in Tehran, Iran in 2018. Participants were a purposeful sample of 15 women with prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormalities. Data were collected by individual, in-depth interviews. The conventional content analysis approach was used to analyze the data. Two main themes “emotional suffering” and “decision-making challenge” were extracted from the participants’ experiences. Emotional suffering consisted of subthemes “commiseration,” “self-blame,” “sense of guilt,” and “projection.” Decision-making challenge included subthemes “lack of support,” “stereotypical beliefs,” and “uncertainty.” The women’s experiences of prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormalities were associated with emotional suffering and challenges in decision-making to continue or terminate the pregnancy. Strategies need to be employed to improve women’s autonomy in decision-making. Healthcare professionals should be trained in communication skills to provide appropriate counseling to support women with diagnosis of fetal anomalies.


congenital abnormalities, malformations, prenatal

Author Bio(s)

Fahimeh Ranjbar obtained her PhD degree in reproductive health in 2015 from Tehran University of medical sciences. Currently she is assistant professor and research deputy at Nursing Care Research Center (NCRC), Iran University of Medical Sciences. She published several papers in the field of sexual and reproductive health. She has conducted several nationwide studies in the areas of prenatal health, fertility and infertility in Iranian women using both qualitative and quantitative methods and currently working towards conducting a national randomized controlled trial related to fertility knowledge of new couples in Iran. Please direct correspondence to ranjbar.f@iums.ac.ir.

Fatemeh Oskouie is Professor at the Department Community Health Nursing at the School of Nursing and Midwifery as well as Nursing Care Research Center of the Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran. Her research focuses on nursing, healthcare, family medicine and psychology. She has experience of establishing/administration of nursing and midwifery research and education centers such as: school of nursing and midwifery, national nursing research network, and WHO collaborating center for education and research in nursing and midwifery. She has more than two-decade experience of teaching, conducting and supervision both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Please direct correspondence to fatemehoskouie@gmail.com.

Shahrzad Hashemi Dizaji is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (perinatologist) in Shahid Akbarabadi Hospital affiliated to Iran University of Medical Sciences. She has conducted several studies in the area of handling high-risk pregnancies. Please direct correspondence to hashemidizaji.sh@iums.ac.ir.

Maryam Gharacheh is an assistant professor at the Nursing Care Research Center, Iran University of Medical Sciences. She received her PhD degree in Reproductive Health from Tehran University of Medical Sciences. She is an expert at qualitative research and has conducted several phenomenological studies in the area of reproductive health. Her research interests include maternal mental health, perinatal health and gender based violence. Please direct correspondence to gharacheh.m@gmail.com.


The authors acknowledge Iran University of Medical Sciences for their support of this project. We also thank the Shahid Akbarabadi Clinical research Development Unit (ShACRDU), Iran University of Medical Sciences (IUMS), Tehran, Iran for their collaboration throughout the period of study. We are also grateful to Dr. Nooredin Mohammadi for his guidance and assistance and to the participants who shared their experiences with us.

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