The following is a summary of “A Qualitative Study of Parental Perspectives on Prenatal Counseling at Extreme Prematurity” published in the December 2022 issue of Pediatrics by Sullivan et al.

After prenatal counseling for an anticipated extremely preterm delivery, researchers, for a study, sought to ascertain the chosen language, terminology, and strategy by the parents.

To learn more about the preferred language and decision-making techniques used during their prenatal counseling session, pregnant people (and their spouses) who were hospitalized at 220/7-256/7 weeks of estimated gestation engaged in post-antenatal counseling semistructured interviews. Thematic analysis of the data was done after the audio recordings and transcriptions of the interviews were done.

A total of 28 prenatal consultations were represented by the 39 interviews. The need for confidence and empathetic communication were two overriding themes that affected the whole counseling session; as parents, through a dynamic decision-making process, they described as fluid and ever-changing. These were some related topics: Finding Balance: Parents stressed the need to balance positive and negative information and the appropriate amount of information. The Unspoken: Parents discussed language, resuscitation methods, and value assumptions and inferences that may impede therapy; making the Intangible Tangible: Parents noted the use of a variety of communication techniques, such as using images to anticipate better and prepare. Parents indicated a need for communication and consistency within and across teams, which grew trust. This is known as team synergism.

Typically, parents facing extremely preterm birth could not recall any specific terms used during prenatal consultation; rather, they described how the language and counseling style influenced their decision-making process. These results have implications for future study and educational intervention planning to enhance clinicians’ counseling techniques to reflect parental preferences and ultimately enhance counseling outcomes more accurately.