The lived experience of pregnancy while carrying a child with a known, non-lethal congenital abnormality
Dr. Jane L. Hedrick, PhD, MSN, RN
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In the United States, 164 babies per 100,000 live births are born with congenital abnormalities. Although it is not known how many of the abnormalities are diagnosed prenatally, it is estimated that approximately 50% of all pregnant women now undergo some form of prenatal screening. It is important to gain an understanding of how prenatal diagnosis can impact the process of prenatal attachment for women facing the possibility of carrying, delivering, and raising a child with a congenital abnormality. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the lived experience of prenatal attachment in mothers who are carrying a baby with a known congenital or genetic abnormality. Attachment between infants and mothers can be traced back to attachment theory as described by Bowlby. Rubin stated it is the formation of a maternal identity that emotionally binds women to their children. She stated that this process is gradual and begins during pregnancy. No theories, however, address the impact that maternal knowledge of a non-lethal fetal abnormality has on prenatal attachment. The purposive sample consisted of fifteen women who had an in-utero diagnosis of a major congenital or genetic abnormality. Data were collected through open-ended interviews. The data were analyzed according to Giorgi's steps of phenomenological analysis. The overall experience of prenatal attachment in pregnancies with maternal knowledge of congenital abnormalities is paradoxical. Themes that emerged from the interview data were: time is good, but it's also the enemy; you grieve, but you don't grieve; and the baby's not perfect, but (s)he's still mine. Health care providers need to recognize the paradoxical nature of prenatal attachment during pregnancies in which maternal knowledge of congenital or genetic abnormalities exists and support women's prenatal attachment during this unique pregnancy. This is important since prenatal attachment may positively impact the women's ability to provide long-term care for her child with special needs.
This dissertation has also been disseminated through the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. Dissertation/thesis number: 3086345; ProQuest document ID: 305310595. The author still retains copyright.
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