The Experiences of Fathers Whose Spouses Are Hospitalized for Pregnancy Termination Due to Fetal Chromosome Abnormality in Taiwan

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Abstract

Background:

Hospitals, where most births and terminations of pregnancy take place in modern society, tend to focus on addressing the perinatal loss experiences of mothers rather than fathers. Healthcare providers often overlook the loss experiences of fathers when pregnancy has been terminated because of chromosome abnormality. Little literature exists on the perceptions of these losses from the point of view of fathers in Taiwan.

Purpose:

The aims of this study were to explore and reveal the essence and structure of the experiences of Taiwanese fathers whose spouses are hospitalized for pregnancy termination due to fetal chromosome abnormality.

Methods:

A descriptive phenomenological approach was applied to collect data. In-depth interviews using individualized, semistructured, open-ended questions were conducted with 20 fathers whose spouses were hospitalized for termination of pregnancy due to fetal chromosomal abnormalities. Data were analyzed according to Giorgi’s methods.

Results:

The participants described their experiences as distressing and involving painful decisions. Four themes emerged: (a) “a dismayed father: the unexpected process of terminating pregnancy,” (b) “a hidden source of grief: neglected care,” (c) “a stressful decision: difficulty handling the deceased offspring,” and (d) “a regretful father: inadequate treatment of the baby’s remains.”

Conclusions:

Health professionals must better understand the experiences of fathers, learn to be sensitive and empathetic, and keep communication lines open to create and maintain a more compassionate and caring environment. Health professionals should provide the opportunity for fathers to discuss the decisions that they face, treat the deceased infant with dignity, and acknowledge the grief of both parents as qualitatively equal. Both mother and father should receive appropriate care while the mother is in the hospital for a pregnancy termination.

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