Pregnancy as public property: The experience of couples following diagnosis of a foetal anomaly

deVitry-Smith, Sally, Dietsch, Elaine, & Bonner, Ann (2013) Pregnancy as public property: The experience of couples following diagnosis of a foetal anomaly. Women and Birth, 26(1), pp. 76-81.

View at publisher


Background: Pregnant women find themselves subject to comments and questions from people in public areas. Normally, becoming ‘public property’ is considered friendly and is relatively easy for pregnant women to deal with. However, following diagnosis of a fetal anomaly, the experience of being public property can exacerbate the emotional turmoil experienced by couples.

Original research question: What is the experience of couples who continue pregnancy following the diagnosis of a fetal anomaly?

Method: The study used an interpretive design informed by Merleau-Ponty and this paper reports on a subset of findings. Thirty-one interviews with pregnant women and their partners were undertaken following the diagnosis of a serious or lethal fetal anomaly. Women were between 25 and 38 weeks gestation at the time of their first interview. The non-directive interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim and the transcripts were thematically analysed.

Findings: A prominent theme that emerged during data analysis was that pregnancy is embodied therefore physically evident and ‘public’. Women found it difficult to deal with being public property when the fetus had a serious or lethal anomaly. Some women avoided social situations; others did not disclose the fetal condition but gave minimal or avoidant answers to minimise distress to themselves and others. The male participants were not visibly pregnant and they could continue life in public without being subject to the public’s gaze, but they were very aware and concerned about its impact on their partner.

Conclusion: The public tend to assume that pregnancy is normal and will produce a healthy baby. This becomes problematic for women who have a fetus with an anomaly. Women use strategies to help them cope with becoming public property during pregnancy. Midwives can play an important role in reducing the negative consequences of a woman becoming public property following the diagnosis of a fetal anomaly.

Impact and interest:

1 citations in Scopus
2 citations in Web of Science®
Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

133 since deposited on 05 Dec 2012
19 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 55309
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Public property, Foetal anomaly, Pregnancy, Embodiment, Phenomenology, Midwifery
DOI: 10.1016/j.wombi.2012.05.003
ISSN: 1871-5192
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > NURSING (111000) > Midwifery (111006)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Australian College of Midwives
Copyright Statement: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Women and Birth. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Women and Birth, [Volume 26, Issue 1, (March 2013)]. DOI: 10.1016/j.wombi.2012.05.003
Deposited On: 05 Dec 2012 05:38
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2014 20:30

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page