Better-Informed Women Order Fewer Prenatal Gene Tests, Study Finds

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FRIDAY, Sept. 26, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The more they know about prenatal genetic testing, the less likely pregnant women are to have the tests, a new study finds.

"Our findings show that prenatal testing is not appropriate for everyone, and that all women need information that is readily understood and unbiased to enable them to make informed choices reflecting their own preferences and values," said lead author Miriam Kuppermann, of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

The study included 710 women in California who were a maximum of 20 weeks pregnant with a single baby or twins. All were told that prenatal genetic testing was an option.

While half the women received usual care, the other half were assigned to an intervention group with access to an interactive decision-making guide and to prenatal testing with no out-of-pocket cost.

Compared to those in the usual care group, women in the intervention group had a much higher knowledge of genetic tests and were less likely to have the tests than those in the usual care group (5.9 percent vs. 12.3 percent), the study found.

The women in the intervention group were also more likely to know about the miscarriage risk of amniocentesis and their risk of having a baby with the genetic defect that causes Down syndrome, according to the study in the Sept. 24 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"This does not mean that women in general don't want testing. But it does suggest that at least some women have undergone testing without having clarity about the implications," Kuppermann said in a university news release.

Some of the women in the study may have undergone screening for Down syndrome without having complete information about the implications of testing, the researchers said.

"As prenatal testing becomes easier with cell-free DNA testing, a highly accurate blood test for Down syndrome, it is particularly important that women understand the implications of having this test so they can decide whether or not to opt for it," Kuppermann said.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about prenatal tests.