First-trimester multifetal pregnancy reduction: Acute and persistent psychologic reactions

Patricia Schreiner-Engel, Virginia N. Walther, Janet Mindex, Lauren Lynch, Richard L. Berkowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to determine acute and persistent psychologic impacts of multifetal pregnancy reductions andpatients' ability to cope with fetal loss while simultaneously bonding to surviving infants. STUDY DESIGN: The first 100 women to undergo a multifetal reduction were invited to participate in a retrospective telephone study assessing their emotional reactions and attitudes toward multifetal reduction. The semistructured interview elicited demographic and obstetric data and contianed scales used in previous studies of reproductive loss, which assessed repetitive thoughts about reduced fetuses, catastrophic fears, and lingering depressive feelings. RESULTS: More than 65% of the sample recalled acute feelings of emotional pain, stress, and fear during the reduction procedure. Mourning for the lost fetuses was reported by 70% of women, but most grieved for only 1 month. Thoughts about reduced fetuses occurred moderately frequently after the reduction but rarely at follow-up. Persistent depressive symptoms were mild, although moderately severe levels of sadness and guilt continued for many. Nonetheless, 93% wold make the same decision again. Emotional reactions of patients who miscarried differed little. The small subsample who continued to be most affected were younger (p < 0.02), were more religious (p < 0.003), and had viewed the multifetal pregnancy on ultrasonography more often (p < 0.009). CONCLUSIONS: Multifetal reductions, although highly stressful psychologically, are well tolerated. Sadness and guilt may persist, especially for an identifiable subgroup. Normal maternal bonding and achievement of parenthood goals facilitate grief resolution. The large majority were reconciled to the termination of some fetuses to preserve the lives of a remaining few.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-547
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Feb 1995


  • Multifetal pregnancy reduction
  • depression
  • grief counseling
  • pregnancy loss
  • psychologic impact


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