Faced with a dilemma: Danish midwives' experiences with and attitudes towards late termination of pregnancy

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Anne Vinggaard Christensen, Anne Hjøllund Christiansen, Birgit Petersson

Background: The introduction of prenatal screening for all pregnant women in Denmark in 2004 has lead to an increase in the number of late terminations of pregnancy after the 12th week of pregnancy. Midwives’ experiences with late termination of pregnancy are still poorly described in scientific literature.
Aim: To explore Danish midwives’ experiences with and attitudes towards late termination of pregnancy. Focus was on how midwives perceive their own role in late termination of pregnancy and how their professional identity is influenced by working with late termination of pregnancy in a time where prenatal screening is rapidly developing.
Method: A qualitative study consisting of ten individual interviews with Danish midwives, all of whom had taken part in late termination of pregnancy.
Results: Current practice of late termination of pregnancy resembles the practice of normal deliveries and is influenced by a growing personalisation of the aborted foetus. The midwives strongly supported women’s legal right to choose termination of pregnancy and considerations about the foetus’ right to live were suppressed. Midwives experienced a dilemma when faced with aborted foetuses that looked like newborns and when aborted foetuses showed signs of life after a termination. Furthermore, they were critical of how physicians counsel women/couples after prenatal diagnosis.
Conclusions: The midwives’ practice in relation to late termination of pregnancy was characterised by an acknowledgement of the growing ethical status of the foetus and the emotional reactions of the women/couples going through late termination of pregnancy. Other professions as well as structural factors at the hospital highly influenced the midwives’ ability to organize their work with late terminations. There is a need for more thorough investigation of how to secure the best possible working conditions for midwives and how to optimise the care for women/couples going through late termination of pregnancy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Volume27
Issue number3
ISSN0283-9318
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2012

ID: 43813610