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  1. Sittner, Barbara J. PhD, RN
  2. DeFrain, John PhD
  3. Hudson, Diane Brage PhD, RN


Purpose: To examine the psychosocial impact a high-risk pregnancy has on the family and to identify family strengths and how these strengths help families meet the challenges inherent in high-risk pregnancies.


Study Design and Method: A descriptive study using naturalistic inquiry was used to interview women who were currently pregnant and had differing high-risk obstetric health issues. Data collection for this study included semi-structured, one-on-one audiotaped interviews, observations, and a biographic profile completed by the participant. The audiotaped interviews were transcribed and data were examined, coded, clustered, and sorted into specific categories. Trustworthiness included member checks and audit trails.


Results: Three themes emerged from the data about psychosocial impact. Mixed Emotions described the women's perception of a high-risk pregnancy; Adjustment and Support was how the women described their family's experience with the high-risk pregnancy; and Informative Care arose from the women's explanation of care received. The most common family strength identified was the ability to manage stress and crisis, followed by commitment, appreciation and affection, a sense of spiritual well-being, and enjoyable time together. The least common strength identified was positive communication.


Clinical Implications: A high-risk pregnancy not only affects women, but it also causes an alteration in family functioning. Nurses need to become familiar with family strengths and help families recognize their strengths when faced with significant life events.