Risk Perception Influences Attitudes to Prenatal Testing

Factors beyond race and socioeconomics affect decisions about testing for Down syndrome

WEDNESDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Women's risk perception and attitudes affect their decision-making process in prenatal testing for Down syndrome and mediate the effect of racial or ethnic and socioeconomic differences, according to a study published in the May issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Miriam Kuppermann, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a study of 827 English-, Spanish-, or Chinese-speaking pregnant women in the San Francisco Bay area who presented for care by the time they were 20 weeks pregnant. Their use of prenatal screening tests was assessed at 30 weeks.

There were no racial or ethnic differences among women aged less than 35 years in terms of the tests they used. There were three testing predictors: prenatal care site, inclination to terminate a pregnancy if the fetus was Down syndrome-affected, and a belief that there is too much modern medical interference in pregnancy. In women aged 35 years or older, there were racial/ethnic and socioeconomic differences in the use of the tests, mediated by faith and fatalism, the value of the information yielded by tests and the perceived risk of miscarriage.

"Our study underscores the importance of rigorously exploring factors beyond race or ethnicity and socioeconomic status, to benefit patients, providers and policy makers in their decision making," the authors conclude.

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