The uptake of any screening test is influenced by knowledge of the condition being screened for. In the present study, the knowledge and the source of knowledge of women offered antenatal screening for Down syndrome (DS) was assessed by means of a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire was administered to 300 consecutive women booking for antenatal care, of the 245 (82%) women who completed and returned the questionnaire, 117 (48%) were Caucasian, 85 (35%) were Asian born outside the UK, 32 (13%) were Asian born in the UK and ten (4%) belonged to other categories. Only 30% of the cohort had a good understanding of the condition. Racial groups other than Caucasian had a poorer understanding of DS. The factors which affected knowledge of DS included quality of spoken English, knowing an affected child, parity and religion. The most significant factor affecting acceptance of screening was the woman's knowledge of DS. The source of information for the condition varied widely: 42% from a general practitioners (GP), 24% from the hospital and 16% from midwives. The proportion with good knowledge was similar in those women whose source of information was the GP (45%) and the midwife (41%). These proportions were, however, higher (though not significantly) when the source of information was from magazines and newspapers (67%) and from friends (53%). Uptake of the screening test was best in those with good knowledge (53%) compared to those with poor knowledge (23%) (p<0.02). Between 28% and 66% (depending on the ethnic group) of women had a screening blood test "allegedly" without knowing why it had been performed. In order to improve uptake of the screening test for DS there is need for better education and counselling of women attending for antenatal care.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.