Why do women decline prenatal screening and diagnosis? Australian women's perspective

Women Health. 2003;37(2):89-108. doi: 10.1300/J013v37n02_06.


In this paper, we examine reasons for declining both prenatal screening, and diagnosis among a small group of pregnant women in Victoria, Australia. Semi-structured questionnaires were used to elicit women's account of their refusals of offers during pregnancy. Previous literature suggests that women decline prenatal screening and diagnosis because they are against abortion and the medicalisation of pregnancy, and have conoerns about the health and well-being of their fetuses. Women in this study had similar reasons but they also had other reasons for declining. Most clearly was that related to 'risk' brought about by the prospect of knowledge gained from undertaking prenatal screening and diagnostic tests, which would cause emotional distress and lead to further difficult decisions. The results have implications for the development and expansion of prenatal screening and diagnosis for pregnant women in Australia and elsewhere. We are not suggesting that prenatal screening and diagnosis is a problem for all women or even most women. However, health service providers must provide information about prenatal screening and diagnosis that is appropriate for all pregnant women, presenting all options, including that of not having any screening or diagnostic test. In doing so we will be facilitating the opportunity for women to make an informed choice and acknowledging the existence and importance of this small, but concerned group of women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Australia
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / psychology
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Refusal*
  • Women's Health