Ultrasound Testing and Maternal Anxiety
Joanna Hawthorne, Ph.D. and Thelma Quince, Ph.D.
Center for Family Research, University of Cambridge
The aim of this study was to assess the anxiety levels, worry, the
experiences and feelings of mothers on learning of the presence
of renal dilation or choroid plexus cysts in her fetus on her 19-week
antenatal ultrasound scan.
Methods: One hundred and twelve mothers were recruited at
the 19-week ultrasound scan. Three groups of mothers were followed
until the babies were 8 weeks old: fetus with renal dilation (R)
2) fetus with isolated choroid plexus cyst (CPC) 3) mothers with
low-lying placenta (LLP) as a comparison to the soft marker group.
Postal questionnaires were sent at 22 and 32 weeks antenatally and
4 and 8 weeks postnatally. Data included the Speilberger State-Trait
Anxiety Inventory, the Cambridge Worry Scale, the Edinburgh Postnatal
Depression Scale, ultrasonographer's reports of mother's anxiety,
adjective checklists and maternal reports of infant behavior.
Results: Seven babies with renal dilation needed follow-up,
and there were no babies born with chromosomal abnormalities. Mothers
in all groups were not prepared for bad news in 19 weeks, and mothers
in R and CPC group were more worried than the LLP mothers. The CPC
group had the most negative reaction to the scan. Mothers received
little support or information about the conditions, but their community
mid-wife was the most helpful professional. The worry was reduced
at 32 weeks, and dropped sharply after the birth of the baby. Postnatally,
three babies needed operations and 18% need hospital treatment.
In retrospect, mothers were disturbed by the news at 19 weeks and
some felt that they had been prevented from having a happy pregnancy.
Other collaborators: Ms. Sylvia Bishop, Dr. Odile Dewit,
Mr. Gerald Hackett, Dr. Janet Rennie, and Professor Martin Richards.
For further information please contact Dr. Joanna Hawthorne at