Termination of pregnancy for foetal abnormality has become frequent with the increasing sophistication of techniques of antenatal diagnosis. The aim of this study was to obtain quantitative and qualitative information about psychiatric morbidity in women after termination of pregnancy for foetal abnormality.
Two samples of women were compared. The first consisted of 71 women who had had a termination of pregnancy for foetal abnormality (FA group). The second consisted of 26 women who had experienced so-called missed abortion (MA group). Both groups had lost a pregnancy in the mid-trimester of pregnancy, but the MA group had no element of choice.
Standardized psychiatric and social measures were used to assess both groups on three occasions after the termination. In both groups, 4 weeks after the termination psychiatric morbidity was high (four to five times higher than in the general population of women), and social adjustement was impaired. Six months and 12 months after the abortion, levels of psychiatric morbidity were near normal.
Semi-structured interviewing was used to obtain information about the experience of grief after mid-trimester termination. For many women, symptoms of grief persisted throughout the year. These symptoms included typical features of grief as well as grief symptoms specific to pregnancy loss. The findings have implications for the counselling of women after termination for foetal abnormality or after missed abortion.