European journal of human genetics : EJHG

Attitudes of women of advanced maternal age undergoing invasive prenatal diagnosis and the impact of genetic counselling.

PMID 26014424


Despite the increasing availability and effectiveness of non-invasive screening for foetal aneuploidies, most women of advanced maternal age (AMA) still opt for invasive tests. A retrospective cross-sectional survey was performed on women of AMA undergoing prenatal invasive procedures, in order to explore their motivations and the outcome of preliminary genetic counselling according to the approach (individual or group) adopted. Of 687 eligible women, 221 (32.2%) participated: 117 had received individual counselling, while 104 had attended group sessions. The two groups did not differ by socio-demographic features. The commonest reported reason to undergo invasive tests was AMA itself (67.4%), while only 10.4% of women mentioned the opportunity of making informed choices. The majority perceived as clear and helpful the information received at counselling, and only 12.7% had doubts left that, however, often concerned non-pertinent issues. The impact of counselling on risk perception and decisions was limited: a minority stated their perceived risk of foetal abnormalities had either increased (6.8%) or reduced (3.6%), and only one eventually declined invasive test. The 52.6% of women expressed a preference toward individual counselling, which also had a stronger impact on perceived risk reduction (P=0.003). Nevertheless, group counselling had a more favourable impact on both clarity of understanding and helpfulness (P=0.0497 and P=0.035, respectively). The idea that AMA represents an absolute indication for invasive tests appears deeply rooted; promotion of non-invasive techniques may require extensive educational efforts targeted to both the general population and health professionals.