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Authors

  1. Berry, Shandeigh N. MSN, RN, CNOR
  2. Colorafi, Karen PhD, RN

Abstract

Congenital anomalies are the leading cause of infant death in the United States, accounting for 20% of the annual infant mortality. Advancements in ultrasound diagnostic technology allow practitioners to diagnose fetal anomalies as early as 11 weeks' gestational age, 75% of which are detected in low-risk pregnancies. Communicating a fetal anomaly diagnosis to parents and initiating perinatal end-of-life discussions are difficult for healthcare providers and parents alike. Furthermore, poorly communicated diagnoses have had long-term negative impacts on perinatal grief intensity, which can manifest into lifelong symptoms of adverse psychosocial outcomes such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation. The purpose of this integrative review is to examine the impact of communication in discussing an intrauterine diagnosis of a fetal congenital anomaly on perinatal grief. An integrative review was conducted following the distinct 5-stage process of problem identification, searching the literature, evaluating data, analyzing, and presenting findings. A systematic literature review using the PICO model (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome) and structured after the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA). This framework was completed between November 2017 and May 2018 using PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycINFO databases. Of the 931 article results, 15 satisfied search criteria. Emerging themes included parental need for appropriate time to assimilate and understand the diagnosis, freedom to explore options and alternatives, and the need for clinicians with expert communication skills. The initial conversation communicating the diagnosis of a congenital anomaly impacts expectant parents for the remainder of their lives. Healthcare professionals are in a unique position to either positively or negatively impact the intensity of perinatal grieving reactions. The application of empathetic, sensitive communication may offer solace and promote healing surrounding perinatal end-of-life discussions.