Background: It is not known which of two common methods of conducting prenatal screening best facilitate women making informed choices.
Objective: To describe rates of informed choice in two hospitals: one where screening for Down's syndrome was conducted at a routine visit; the other where screening was conducted as part of a separate visit.
Design: Prospective descriptive study.
Setting: Two hospitals in England.
Participants: 1499 pregnant women offered screening for Down's syndrome.
Outcome measure: A multidimensional measure of informed choice derived from measures of (a) consistency between attitudes towards undergoing the test and uptake and (b) knowledge about the screening test.
Results: The proportion of women making an informed choice to accept the test was higher at the routine visit hospital than at the separate visit hospital (41% v 21%, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) of the difference 16% to 25%). The proportions of women making an informed choice to decline the test were similar at the two hospitals (23% at both, 95% CI of the difference -5% to 4%). These results reflect the finding that women with negative attitudes were equally likely to decline the test at each of the two hospitals, whereas women with positive attitudes were more likely to accept the test at the routine visit hospital than at the separate visit hospital. This finding held after adjusting for parity, socioeconomic status, age, and ethnicity. At both hospitals, women with good knowledge were slightly more likely to undergo the test than were women with poor knowledge. This difference disappeared after a similar adjustment.
Conclusion: Screening conducted as part of a routine visit may be associated with higher levels of informed choice than screening conducted at a separate visit. This finding constitutes a hypothesis for experimental investigation.