BACKGROUND: A prenatal diagnosis of a fetal anomaly involves acute grief and psychological distress. The Internet has the potential to provide virtual support following the diagnosis. The overall aim was to explore communication of support and critique in Swedish virtual community threads about prenatal diagnoses of fetal anomalies.
METHODS: Systematic searches in Google resulted in 117 eligible threads. Fifteen of these were purposefully selected and subjected to deductive content analysis.
RESULTS: The virtual support involved mainly emotional support (meaning units n = 1,992/3,688, 54 %) and was described as comforting and empowering. Posters with experience of a prenatal diagnosis appreciated the virtual support, including the opportunity to gain insight into other cases and to write about one's own experience. Critique of the decision to continue or terminate the pregnancy occurred, primarily against termination of pregnancy. However, it was met with defense.
CONCLUSIONS: Peer support, mainly emotional, is provided and highly appreciated in threads about prenatal diagnoses of a fetal anomaly. Critique of the decision to terminate the pregnancy occurs in virtual community threads about prenatal diagnoses, but the norm is to not question the decision. Future studies need to investigate if virtual peer support promotes psychosocial function following a prenatal diagnosis and what medium would be most suitable for these types of supportive structures.
2016. Vol. 16, no 1, 199