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Keywords:

  • prenatal testing;
  • informed choice;
  • knowledge;
  • communication of risk information

Abstract

There is a consensus that prenatal testing services need to provide the information and support necessary for women to make informed choices about prenatal testing. Informed choices are those based on relevant information that reflect the decision-maker's values. To date, most research has focused on the information provided to women deciding whether to undergo tests. This has highlighted the poor quality of information provided to many women. There is agreement on the need to provide information on three key aspects of any test: the condition for which testing is being offered, characteristics of the test, and the implications of testing. Very little research has been conducted on decisions after the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality and how information and emotional and decisional support are and should be provided. Research is now needed in four key areas: first, on the optimal ways of organizing services to facilitate choices that are not only based on relevant information, but also reflect the decision-maker's values; second, on the most effective ways of framing information needed for the different decisions involved in prenatal testing; third, on the most effective media in which to deliver information; and, fourth, to identify aspects of counseling that facilitate informed choices following diagnoses of fetal abnormality. If we value women's ability to make informed choices about prenatal tests as highly as we value reliable laboratory tests, evidence-based quality standards need to be developed for the information and support women are given at all stages of the process of prenatal testing. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.