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J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 1999 May;8(4):521-31.

Decisions about prenatal testing for chromosomal disorders: perceptions of a diverse group of pregnant women.

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  • 1The Program in Health Psychology, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0856, USA.


We conducted a study to elucidate factors influencing women's decisions regarding prenatal genetic screening for and diagnosis of chromosomal disorders and to learn about their experiences with these tests and with the medical system. Using focus group interviews and questionnaire assessments, we obtained detailed impressions of a diverse group of 75 pregnant women. Participants varied with respect to race/ethnicity, religious background, and reproductive history, as well as in their decisions about use of prenatal screening and diagnostic testing. Substantial variation surfaced in attitudes toward testing. Factors influencing women's views included available resources, feelings about having a child with Down syndrome, moral beliefs, family and social influences, perceptions of one's own health, the difficulty of becoming pregnant, and willingness to put the fetus at elevated miscarriage risk. Such findings indicate that age-based policies regarding access to prenatal diagnoses that, among other reasons, are based on the balance of risks between bearing a child with a chromosomal abnormality versus procedure-related loss are incompatible with the range of concerns that women bring to this decision and the weight individual women may assign to the outcomes.

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