OBJECTIVE: To explore experiences among pregnant women diagnosed with a small-for-gestational age (SGA) fetus, and monitored by frequent ultrasounds.
METHODS: We performed a qualitative study at the outpatient clinic of the Gynecology and Obstetrics department of a large academic hospital in Amsterdam. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with fifteen women, diagnosed with an SGA fetus during their pregnancy and having had at least two monitoring ultrasounds since. Themes were identified following analysis of the interview transcripts.
RESULTS: Most women experienced the frequent ultrasounds as a source of support providing comfort and a feeling of safety. It was considered necessary, in the best interest of the baby, which outweighed the discomfort caused by having to come to the hospital frequently. Women described anxiety building up prior to each ultrasound, but feeling reassured and relieved afterwards. During the ultrasound a continuous explanation was preferred, which provided confirmation and a feeling of security. Women identified the uncertainty of SGA's cause and prognosis as one of the biggest challenges to cope with, for which they used different strategies. Many women expressed a need for more detailed information and counselling, including non-medical aspects of pregnancy and delivery as well. Lastly, many women reported that seeing different doctors negatively influenced the perceived quality of care.
CONCLUSIONS: In general, women in this study were satisfied with the ultrasounds for their small-for-gestational age pregnancies. However, women expressed a need for additional information to help cope with a feeling of uncertainty regarding cause and prognosis. Their medical team should preferably provide this in a consistent and continuous manner.