Socio-demographic disparities in the uptake of prenatal screening and diagnosis in Western Australia

Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2011 Feb;51(1):9-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-828X.2010.01250.x. Epub 2010 Dec 6.


Introduction: Since the early 1980s, prenatal screening using ultrasound and biochemical markers has been used to refine the risk of Down syndrome and other fetal anomalies prior to considering fetal karyotyping. The performance of prenatal screening is subject to ongoing monitoring in Western Australia. The collection of these data can also assist in the identification of any potential inequities of access to prenatal screening within the state-wide programme.

Methods: Prenatal screening data (2005-2006) were collected from accredited ultrasound and pathology laboratories in Western Australia. Screening data were linked to diagnostic and pregnancy outcome data. Performance characteristics of screening and uptake by socio-demographic characteristics were analysed.

Results: Complete screening data were collected for 35,142 of the estimated 38,081 women screened during 2005 and 2006. There were 59,999 births related to this screening period. The lowest uptake of screening was among women who were Aboriginal (14.9%), living in remote areas (38.0%), under the age of 25 (40.2%), in the lowest quintile of the SEIFA index (41.6%) and with three or more children (48.4%). Logistic regression analysis showed all socio-demographic factors to be strongly associated with screening behaviour, with adjustment for ethnicity, socio-economic status, age, parity and area of residence.

Discussion: Our results have important implications for the delivery of prenatal screening services in Western Australia. While the screening programme meets international and national performance standards, the disparities in screening uptake suggest inequity in access to services, particularly for Aboriginal, remote and socio-economically disadvantaged women.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Cohort Studies
  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Down Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Karyotyping
  • Maternal Age
  • Middle Aged
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis*
  • Social Class*
  • Western Australia / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers