The experience of parents with children with myelomeningocele who underwent prenatal surgery

Ryan M. Antiel, Annie Janvier, Chris Feudtner, Kallie Blaine, Jessica Fry, Lori J. Howell, Amy J. Houtrow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Prenatal surgery for myelomeningocele (MMC) has been demonstrated to have benefits over postnatal surgery. Nevertheless, prenatal surgery requires a significant emotional, physical, and financial commitment from the entire family. METHODS: Mixed methods study of parents' perceptions regarding provider communication, treatment choices, and the family impact of having a child with MMC. RESULTS: Parents of children with MMC (n= 109) completed questionnaires. Parents were well informed and reported gathering information about prenatal surgery from a wide range of sources. After a fetal diagnosis of MMC, most learned about their options from their obstetrician, although one-third were not told about the option of prenatal surgery. About one-fourth of these parents felt pressure to undergo one particular option. Half of parents said that having a child with MMC has had a positive impact on them and their family, while the other half indicated that having a child with MMC has had both positive and negative impacts. The most commonly noted positive impacts were changes in parental attitudes, as well as having new opportunities and relationships. The most frequently reported negative impacts concerned relational and financial strain. The vast majority of parents indicated that they would still undergo prenatal surgery if they could travel back in time with their present knowledge. CONCLUSIONS: A better understanding of the parental experiences and perspectives following prenatal surgery will play an important role in providing overall support for parents and family members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-225
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of pediatric rehabilitation medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2018


  • Myelomeningocele
  • clinical ethics
  • family impact
  • maternal-fetal surgery
  • parental decision-making
  • parental perspectives
  • prenatal diagnosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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