Counselling for prenatal anomaly screening - a plea for integration of existential life questions

christina prinds, JT Gitsels-van der Wal, Neeltje M. T. H. Crombag, L. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/Letter to the editorAcademic


The availability in many countries of new prenatal anomaly screening methods, such as the non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), and the potential broadening of testing for genetic conditions, creates an ongoing debate about the accompanying existential dilemmas at both societal level and for individual new parents. In many countries, the main goal of counselling for prenatal anomaly screening is to facilitate the reproductive decision-making process of future parents. Therefore, counsellors share information to enable a woman and her partner to think about the pros and cons of participating in screening, try to clarify possible moral dilemmas, and dwell on existential life questions. In line with the CanMEDS framework, healthcare professionals must combine the role of communicator (providing health education) with that of professional (by recognising and responding to existential life questions while facilitating decision-making). This is not easy but it is essential for providing balanced counselling. At present, counselling tends to be sufficient regarding health education, whereas guidance in decision-making, including attention for existential life questions and philosophy of life, offers room for improvement. In this paper, we suggest slowing down and turning the traditional prenatal counselling encounter upside down by starting as a counselling professional instead of a healthcare information sharing communicator and thus making the story of the woman and her partner, within their societal context, the starting point and the basis of the counselling encounter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1657-1661
Number of pages5
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

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