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"He looks gorgeous" – iuMR images and the transforming of fetal and parental identities

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Mabel LieORCiD, Dr Ruth Graham, Professor Steve RobsonORCiD, Dr Paul Griffiths



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The MERIDIAN study examined whether in-utero MRI (iuMRI) improves the accuracy of diagnosis of fetal brain abnormalities, when used as an adjunct to ultrasound anomaly scanning. A diagnostic iuMRI differs from routine ultrasound screening because of its infrequent use and scanning procedure. Nested within this trial, this sociological study explored the acceptability of iuMRI as a technology and its contribution to parental decision making. Our sociological interpretation of the role of iuMR images in prenatal diagnosis draws on narrative interviews with women (and some partners) who underwent MRI imaging at three different centres. Overall, participants found iuMRI helpful in decision-making because it either confirmed or disconfirmed previous results, or provided additional information. Expectant couples experienced the iuMR imaging process as informative, but also as having emotive and practical value. Our paper extends the existing sociological literature on antenatal testing and visualising the fetus, by using iuMR diagnostic imaging to further explore the concept of the unborn entity. Our data suggest that alongside the iuMR images, the ‘parental gaze’ and accompanying commentary are used by parents to construct and transform fetal and parental identities despite on-going uncertainties about, and shifting social contexts to their pregnancy.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lie MLS, Graham RH, Robson SC, Griffiths PD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sociology of Health and Illness

Year: 2018

Volume: 41

Issue: 2

Pages: 360-377

Print publication date: 01/02/2019

Online publication date: 18/11/2018

Acceptance date: 18/09/2018

Date deposited: 19/09/2018

ISSN (print): 0141-9889

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9566

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.12831


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