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Women's and health professionals’ preferences for prenatal testing for Down syndrome in Australia

Authors


: Dr Sharon M. Lewis, Public Health Genetics Unit, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Vic. 3052, Australia. Email: sharon.lewis@mcri.edu.au

Abstract

Aim:  To describe and compare women's and health professionals’ preferences for prenatal screening tests for Down syndrome.

Design:  Cross-sectional questionnaire survey.

Participants and setting:  Women (n = 322) attending for a glucose challenge test at 26 weeks gestation and health professionals (266 midwives and 34 obstetricians) at the Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, between 13 December 2002 and 30 April 2003.

Outcome measures:  The relative value participants attach to attributes of Down syndrome screening tests as determined by conjoint analysis and ranking scales.

Results:  Women and health professionals shared similar relative values regarding the importance of detection rate of screening tests, according to coefficients from conjoint analysis models. However, health professionals placed higher relative values on timing of prenatal tests and risk associated with the subsequent diagnostic test than did women. Comparison of coefficients suggests that, compared with health professionals, women would wait longer and accept a greater decrease in detection rate for a test if it was safer. Using the more traditional ranking scale, the safest test was ranked first by 56% of women while 47% of health professionals ranked a test with the highest detection rate first. Equal proportions (∼10%) in both groups ranked the earliest test first.

Conclusion:  There is a general agreement between pregnant women and health professionals regarding the relative importance they attach to different attributes of a test. However, health professionals appeared to favour earlier timing of tests while women placed greater emphasis on safety. Utilising two different measures of preference demonstrated the complexity of decision-making.

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