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J Genet Couns. 2010 Feb;19(1):22-37. doi: 10.1007/s10897-009-9248-6. Epub 2009 Oct 2.

"Testing times, challenging choices": an Australian study of prenatal genetic counseling.

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Genetic Education and Health Research, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, Victoria, 3052, Australia.


In many countries pregnant women deemed to be at increased risk for fetal anomaly following a screening test may attend a genetic counseling session to receive information and support in decision-making about subsequent diagnostic testing. This paper presents findings from an Australian study that explored 21 prenatal genetic counseling sessions conducted by five different genetic counselors. All were attended by pregnant women who had received an increased risk result from a maternal serum screening (MSS) test and who were offered a diagnostic test. Qualitative methods were used to analyze the content and structure of sessions and explore the counseling interactions. Findings from this cohort demonstrate that, within these prenatal genetic counseling sessions, counselor dialogue predominated. Overall the sessions were characterized by: a) an emphasis on information-giving b) a lack of dialogue about relevant sensitive topics such as disability and abortion. Arguably, this resulted in missed opportunities for client deliberation and informed decision-making. These findings have implications for the training and practice of genetic counselors and all healthcare professionals who communicate with women about prenatal testing.

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