Volume 52, Issue 3
Pages 171 - 179

Anticipatory Counseling About Miscarriage Management in Catholic Hospitals: A Qualitative Exploration of Women's Preferences


Catholic hospitals represent a large and growing segment of U.S. health care. Because these facilities follow doctrines that restrict reproductive health services, including miscarriage management options when a fetal heartbeat is present, it is critical to understand whether and how women would want to learn about miscarriage treatment restrictions from providers.


From May 2018 to January 2019, semistructured interviews were conducted with 31 women aged 21–44 who had had exposure to religious‐based health care; all were drawn from a nationally representative survey sample. Participants responded to a hypothetical scenario regarding the anticipatory disclosure of miscarriage management policy during routine prenatal care. Responses were inductively coded and thematically analyzed using modified grounded theory to understand women's attitudes and considerations related to receiving anticipatory miscarriage management information.


Respondents supported the routine disclosure of miscarriage management policies during prenatal care. Some expressed concern that this might increase patient anxiety during pregnancy, but most felt that the information would serve to prepare and empower patients, and likened the topic to other anticipatory health information provided during prenatal care. Identified themes related to how providers can disclose this information (including the need for a precautionary framing to reduce patient stress), sharing the rationale for institutional policy, and the importance of provider neutrality to ensure patient autonomy.


To respect patient autonomy, health care providers working in Catholic hospitals should routinely discuss institutional miscarriage management policies with patients, and anticipatory counseling should give patients the balanced information they need to decide where to go for care should pregnancy complications arise.

Authors' Affiliations

Erin E. Wingo is a project manager and Lori R. Freedman is associate professor, both at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco. Jocelyn M. Wascher is a medical resident, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; and Debra B. Stulberg is associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, both at the University of Chicago, Chicago.

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health