Role of Psychosocial Factors and Health Literacy in Pregnant Women's Intention to Use a Decision Aid for Down Syndrome Screening: A Theory-Based Web Survey

J Med Internet Res. 2016 Oct 28;18(10):e283. doi: 10.2196/jmir.6362.


Background: Deciding about undergoing prenatal screening is difficult, as it entails risks, potential loss and regrets, and challenges to personal values. Shared decision making and decision aids (DAs) can help pregnant women give informed and values-based consent or refusal to prenatal screening, but little is known about factors influencing the use of DAs.

Objective: The objective of this study was to identify the influence of psychosocial factors on pregnant women's intention to use a DA for prenatal screening for Down syndrome (DS). We also added health literacy variables to explore their influence on pregnant women's intention.

Methods: We conducted a survey of pregnant women in the province of Quebec (Canada) using a Web panel. Eligibility criteria included age >18 years, >16 weeks pregnant, low-risk pregnancy, and having decided about prenatal screening for the current pregnancy. We collected data based on an extended version of the Theory of Planned Behavior assessing 7 psychosocial constructs (intention, attitude, anticipated regret, subjective norm, descriptive norm, moral norm, and perceived control), 3 related sets of beliefs (behavioral, normative, and control beliefs), 4 health literacy variables, and sociodemographics. Eligible women watched a video depicting the behavior of interest before completing a Web-based questionnaire. We performed descriptive, bivariate, and ordinal logistic regression analyses.

Results: Of the 383 eligible pregnant women who agreed to participate, 350 pregnant women completed the Web-based questionnaire and 346 were retained for analysis (completion rate 350/383, 91.4%; mean age 30.1, SD 4.3, years). In order of importance, factors influencing intention to use a DA for prenatal screening for DS were attitude (odds ratio, OR, 9.16, 95% CI 4.02-20.85), moral norm (OR 7.97, 95% CI 4.49-14.14), descriptive norm (OR 2.83, 95% CI 1.63-4.92), and anticipated regret (OR 2.43, 95% CI 1.71-3.46). Specific attitudinal beliefs significantly related to intention were that using a DA would reassure them (OR 2.55, 95% CI 1.73-4.01), facilitate their reflections with their spouse (OR 1.55, 95% CI 1.05-2.29), and let them know about the advantages of doing or not doing the test (OR 1.53, 95% CI 1.05-2.24). Health literacy did not add to the predictive power of our model (P values range .43-.92).

Conclusions: Implementation interventions targeting the use of a DA for prenatal screening for DS by pregnant women should address a number of modifiable factors, especially by introducing the advantages of using the DA (attitude), informing pregnant women that they might regret not using it (anticipated regret), and presenting the use of DAs as a common practice (descriptive norm). However, interventions on moral norms related to the use of DA should be treated with caution. Further studies that include populations with low health literacy are needed before decisive claims can be made.

Keywords: behavior; decision aids; decision making; health literacy; intention; prenatal diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Health Literacy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / psychology*
  • Psychology / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires