Women’s Experiences of Late Pregnancy Ultrasound: Implications for Antenatal Care
Objective: This study addresses an identified gap in knowledge regarding the expectations and experiences of women undergoing third trimester ultrasound in the United Kingdom. Design: This dissertation is a qualitative study. It is theoretically informed by grounded theory. Methodologically, it draws on data collected through semi-structured interviews (n=50) conducted 18 months – 4 years following participation in the Pregnancy Outcome Prediction study (POPs) Participants were identified from the POPs database and sampled according to three criteria regarding pregnancy outcomes. Setting: Interviews were conducted in participant’s homes in South East England. Findings: The data revealed three core themes: ultrasound as a means of ascribing reality to the pregnancy; the importance of the visual aspect of ultrasound; and the reassuring effect of ultrasound. Ultrasound played a pivotal role in the confirmation of life and the reality of the child. The visual aspect of ‘seeing’ the unborn child provided a level of reassurance beyond other aspects of routine care and for this group of mothers was the significant and defining moment of psychological reassurance. Conclusions: While the underlying themes were analogous there were differences between how women experienced late trimester ultrasound from earlier scans, the data revealed important findings pertaining to the role of ultrasound in preparing for birth and transition to parenthood. It raised questions relating to the environment of scanning, the experiences of research participation during pregnancy, and the implications of these scanning experiences for routine antenatal care.