Knowledge regarding the long-term psychological adjustment of parents to children with prenatal diagnosis of congenital malformation is scarce. The aim of this study is to examine traumatic stress trajectories, resilience, and relationship satisfaction among parents to children with prenatal diagnosis of a congenital malformation, and to compare this to a sample of non-affected parents.
A prospective longitudinal cohort study was conducted at a tertiary perinatal referral center. Ninety-three mothers and 80 fathers who received a diagnosis of fetal anomaly during obstetric ultrasound examination (study group), and 110 mothers and 98 fathers with normal ultrasound findings (comparison group), reported their traumatic stress at four timepoints during pregnancy (T1–T4), 6 weeks after birth (T5), and 10–12 years after birth (T6). Resilience and relationship satisfaction was reported at 10–12 years after birth.
Parents to children with a congenital malformation experienced significantly elevated traumatic stress levels over time, compared with parents of children without congenital malformation. The difference between groups was largest acutely after diagnosis and remained significant 10–12 years after the birth of the child. Resilience and relationship satisfaction levels were similar in both groups.
Despite experiencing high levels of traumatic stress over time, parents to children with a congenital malformation reported resilience and relationship satisfaction at similar levels to non-affected parents. This suggests that despite ongoing long-term distress, parents are still able to maintain positive psychological coping resources.