Have your say: take part in our Communicating Unexpected News survey

(This survey has now CLOSED – we will be sharing the next steps in due course)

I think there might be a problem with your baby’s heart.”

Words no parent wants to hear at their 20-week scan. Sadly however, one in five pregnancies involves complications found before birth, including miscarriage, stillbirth and fetal anomaly, affecting more than 150,000 families in the UK annually. The most common congenital birth defect is congenital heart disease (CHD), and just over 50% of cases are now detected antenatally.

How this news is imparted to families can make a huge difference to their experience. Studies show that being informed of unexpected and often distressing news during pregnancy increases the risk of depression, anxiety and trauma which, in turn, are linked to negative pregnancy outcomes such as early birth, underweight babies and birth by caesarean section. And whilst there is no “good” way to be told your baby is potentially going to have a problem with their heart, being prepared for what lies ahead is important clinically, to prepare a treatment plan, and also in order to mentally prepare and gain support for what lies ahead for parents too.

Sonographer doing 20 week pregnancy scan

Parents may therefore be surprised to hear that there is currently no evidence-based training to help sonographers with the task of communicating unexpected news during ultrasound scans. Whereas doctors and clinicians, upon receipt of test results, often have time to prepare for imparting unexpected or difficult information prior to a planned appointment, sonographers are often breaking the news to parents in real time, as a scan is taking place, with little time for reflection or preparation. It is unsurprising, therefore, that sonographers describe these experiences as highly stressful and express a desire for better support with this aspect of their job.

We are pleased to announce that, following on from a piece of work we were involved in with researchers at the School of Psychology at the University of Leeds, here at Tiny Tickers we are developing a range of resources and webinars for sonographers to help them with this difficult aspect of their job.

We would really value your input. Via a short survey, we’d like to gather your experiences of either receiving unexpected news at your 20-week scan as an expectant parent, or your experiences as a sonographer communicating unexpected news to expectant parents.

We really appreciate your input. Your responses will be treated anonymously and be used to provide support and training materials to sonographers, giving support to both health professionals and the families they care for.

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