Whilst pregnancy and childbirth are generally regarded as a joyful and exciting time in a woman's life they are also filled with fear, uncertainty, a feeling of being 'at risk' and anxieties about what the pregnancy and future may hold. In a society where the perinatal and maternal mortality and morbidity rates are low, where do these fears and uncertainties arise from? Why do pregnant women fear the worst? What are the implications of this? A cross-sectional and qualitative study of 376 postnatal women in a major public teaching hospital in Melbourne was undertaken in 1995 to explore women's beliefs and fears about pregnancy and birthing outcomes, through their perceptions and use of routine antenatal screening tests. Through women's perceptions about the value of, and expectations of, routine antenatal screening tests, and their fears during pregnancy, the author explores the 'notion of risk' as perceived by these women.