Prenatal ultrasound screening: False positive soft markers may alter maternal representations and mother-infant interaction

Sylvie Viaux-Savelon, Marc Dommergues, Ouriel Rosenblum, Nicolas Bodeau, Elizabeth Aidane, Odile Philippon, Philippe Mazet, Claude Vibert-Guigue, Danièle Vauthier-Brouzes, Ruth Feldman, David Cohen

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63 Scopus citations


Background: In up to 5% of pregnancies, ultrasound screening detects a "soft marker" (SM) that places the foetus at risk for a severe abnormality. In most cases, prenatal diagnostic work-up rules out a severe defect. We aimed to study the effects of false positive SM on maternal emotional status, maternal representations of the infant, and mother-infant interaction. Methodology and Principal Findings: Utilizing an extreme-case prospective case control design, we selected from a group of 244 women undergoing ultrasound, 19 pregnant women whose foetus had a positive SM screening and a reassuring diagnostic work up, and 19 controls without SM matched for age and education. In the third trimester of pregnancy, within one week after delivery, and 2 months postpartum, we assessed anxiety, depression, and maternal representations. Mother-infant interactions were videotaped during feeding within one week after delivery and again at 2 months postpartum and coded blindly using the Coding Interactive Behavior (CIB) scales. Anxiety and depression scores were significantly higher at all assessment points in the SM group. Maternal representations were also different between SM and control groups at all study time. Perturbations to early mother-infant interactions were observed in the SM group. These dyads showed greater dysregulation, lower maternal sensitivity, higher maternal intrusive behaviour and higher infant avoidance. Multivariate analysis showed that maternal representation and depression at third trimester predicted mother-infant interaction. Conclusion: False positive ultrasound screenings for SM are not benign and negatively affect the developing maternal-infant attachment. Medical efforts should be directed to minimize as much as possible such false diagnoses, and to limit their psychological adverse consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere30935
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - 23 Jan 2012


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