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New Guidance for Sonographers when delivering news to expectant parents

New Guidance for Sonographers when delivering news to expecting parents

We are very pleased to share new guidelines that have been developed to help sonographers manage the very difficult situation of having to give unexpected news during an ultra-sound scan in pregnancy. The guidelines will offer support & guidance to health professionals and will also help thousands of expectant parents who experience complications in pregnancy each year.

Sunshine & Smiles have played a small part in the research led by the University of Leeds, which will provide sonographers with specific words and phrases to be used consistently when explaining miscarriages, foetal deaths and anomalies during scans, including instances where Down syndrome is suspected.

A wide range of charities, international academics, healthcare professionals and policy experts worked together on the new, comprehensive set of guidelines.

The recommendations include:

  • prioritising the use of honest and clear communication, even with uncertain findings
  • using technical terms, but these should be written down for parents, together with non-technical interpretations
  • the term ‘baby’ should be used as a default, even in early pregnancy, unless expectant parents use other terminology such as ‘foetus’
  • at the initial news disclosure, communication should focus on providing information
  • expectant parents should not be asked to make decisions during the scan

Dr Jude Johnson, who led the research, said:

“These are the first consensus guidelines for news delivery in ultrasound which have been published anywhere in the world; we hope that these guidelines can both improve the experiences of expectant parents in the UK and help to shape news delivery policy in other countries.

We also anticipate that these guidelines will help to reduce sonographer anxiety around news delivery.”

Further information:

UK consensus guidelines for the delivery of unexpected news in obstetric ultrasound: The ASCKS framework is published 5 August in Ultrasound, the journal of the British Medical Ultrasound Society.

The ASCKS framework research was funded by the Society and College of Radiographers, and the University of Leeds. Framework contributors include: Tiny Tickers, The Miscarriage Association; SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society); ARC (Antenatal Results and Choices); The Downs Syndrome Association; Sunshine & Smiles - Leeds Down Syndrome Network; The Society and College of Radiographers; SHINE (the organisation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus); Public Health England; Department of Health and Social Care.

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