Original article| Volume 24, ISSUE 4, e413-e418, July 2014

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A Qualitative Study of Women's Decision to View or Not View an Ultrasound Image Before Early Medication Abortion



      Transvaginal ultrasounds are commonly performed for gestational dating of pregnancy before a medication abortion. This paper presents findings regarding women's perspectives on viewing the gestational dating ultrasound image, which arose from a study exploring women's medication abortion experience. By providing women the opportunity to talk about their medication abortion experience through open-ended interviews, women reported their experience of viewing or not viewing the ultrasound in detail, which to date has been underexplored.


      A constructivist, grounded theory approach was used. The purposive sample consisted of 18 women in the United States who experienced a medication abortion in the preceding 4 months.


      Not all women wanted to view the ultrasound; however, they all wanted a choice. Women wanted to view the image to confirm health and fertility, satisfy curiosity, and process their decision regarding the pregnancy. None of the women stated that they wanted to view the image as a prerequisite to making their decision to terminate the pregnancy; rather, viewing was a way to process their decision.


      Women wanted a choice of whether to view the ultrasound image because they felt it was their right to decide whether to access this aspect of their personal health information. They wanted providers to engage in a dialogue about viewing the image or not and to respect their decision. Providers need to be appropriately prepared to offer women the choice to view and to support women in their decision.
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      Joyce Cappiello, PhD, is Director of the ROE Consortium. Her professional and research interests included sexual and reproductive health. As Director, she designs and promotes educational curriculum to prepare undergraduate and advanced practice nurses to provide optimal sexual and reproductive health care. She incorporates sexual and reproductive health curriculum into her teaching of nursing students at the University of New Hampshire.


      Joy Merrell, PhD, has been interested in women's health issues dating back to her PhD work in community well-woman clinics. Her current research interests include ethnic minority women's health, public and user involvement in primary health care, and public health nursing.


      Dorothy Rentschler, PhD, has in interest in women's health that spans her career, including research relating to parenting, breastfeeding success, adolescent pregnancy, and hormone replacement therapy use in menopause. Since retirement, she keeps abreast of current research through the literature.