September 25, 2014 — Pregnant women are more likely to decline certain prenatal tests when they have been well informed of the screenings' potential risks and benefits, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, NPR's "Shots" reports.
Ob-gyns have long used screenings such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling to determine the chances of Down syndrome and other conditions, although the tests also carry some risks, such as miscarriage. The new study's findings suggest that many pregnant women could benefit from additional information about their prenatal testing options, "Shots" reports.
For the study, researchers divided 710 women visiting medical centers in San Francisco into two groups, both of which were quizzed on their prenatal testing knowledge. One group received standard care, while the other was given a digital guide to prenatal testing and offered the screenings at no charge.
The guide included a bilingual narrator and explained information on various tests, including diagnostic tests and screenings like ultrasounds that do not carry a physical risk. The guide was personalized to include each woman's individual risk of having a child with Down syndrome, based on her age, as well as which tests were available at her stage of pregnancy.
In addition, the guide informed women that the tests were optional and asked about their preferences in various scenarios, such as whether they wanted to be tested before more invasive screenings. Many women do not realize that such tests are optional, according to study lead author Miriam Kuppermann, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine.
Overall, 5.9% of women who used the guide opted for invasive testing, compared with 12.3% from the group that received standard care. The guide group also was more likely to decline testing in general and knew more about the risks of such tests (Bruzek, "Shots," NPR, 9/23).