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The impact of antenatal imaging in pregnancy on parent experience and prenatal attachment: a systematic review

Skelton, E. ORCID: 0000-0003-0132-7948, Webb, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-8862-6491, Malamateniou, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-2352-8575 , Rutherford, M. & Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460 (2022). The impact of antenatal imaging in pregnancy on parent experience and prenatal attachment: a systematic review. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, doi: 10.1080/02646838.2022.2088710


Medical imaging in pregnancy (antenatal imaging) is routine. However, the effect of seeing fetal images on the parent-fetal relationship is not well understood, particularly for fathers or partners, or when using advanced imaging technologies. This review aimed to explore how parent experience and prenatal attachment is impacted by antenatal imaging.

Comprehensive searches of 10 electronic databases, with grey literature and hand searches, were performed between September 2020-April 2021 using a systematic search strategy. Wildcard and Boolean operators were used in combination with key words (e.g. fetal, imaging) to generate search queries. Inclusion criteria were English language primary research studies published since 2000, describing or reporting measures of attachment after antenatal imaging in expectant parents. Studies were evaluated against inclusion criteria by two reviewers and critically appraised. The Pillar Integration Process facilitated integrative synthesis.

Twenty-three (13 quantitative, 10 qualitative/descriptive) studies were included (2462 participants, including 186 fathers). Six pillar themes were identified: 1) the scan experience begins before the scan appointment; 2) the scan as a pregnancy ritual; 3) feeling actively involved in the scan; 4) parents’ priorities for knowledge and understanding of the scan change during pregnancy; 5) the importance of the parent-sonographer partnership during scanning; and 6) scans help to create a social identity for the unborn baby.

Antenatal imaging can enhance prenatal attachment. Parents value working collaboratively with sonographers to be actively involved in the experience. Sonographers can help facilitate attachment by delivering parent-centred care tailored to parents’ emotional and knowledge needs.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Publisher Keywords: antenatal; attachment; bonding; experience; imaging; parents
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
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