Informed decision making regarding antenatal screening for fetal abnormality in the United Kingdom: a qualitative study of parents and professionals

Nurs Health Sci. 2013 Sep;15(3):318-25. doi: 10.1111/nhs.12034. Epub 2013 Jan 24.


The aim of this study was to explore the views of parents and health professionals regarding informed decision making for antenatal screening for Down syndrome. This qualitative study was based on thematic analysis and conducted in England, where screening for Down syndrome is universally offered to all pregnant women. Four focus groups were held with pregnant women and/or their partners (n = 22), and another four groups were held with health professionals who offer antenatal screening (n = 22). Data were analyzed through coding of the transcribed focus group discussions and extraction of main themes. Extracted themes were: information overload, gaps in information, challenges in providing information and involvement of both parents in the decision. Parents and professionals believed that burdening parents with untimely information on a wide range of topics in the first trimester detracted from decision making about screening. Many parents also reported they were not sufficiently informed and wanted individualized discussion with a health professional. To ensure parents make informed decisions, information on screening should be provided at the appropriate time, with opportunity for personal discussion with a knowledgeable health professional.

Keywords: Down syndrome; antenatal screening; focus groups; informed consent; midwives; parents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnosis
  • Congenital Abnormalities / psychology
  • Decision Making*
  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Down Syndrome / psychology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Parents / education
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / ethics
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult