Antenatal Screening

Discussing screening choices with your partner

Most parents interviewed went into the screening process hoping and expecting that it would reassure them their baby was fine. For the great majority of parents in this country this is indeed the outcome (although of course screening cannot detect all problems - see also 'Learning after birth that the baby has a condition').

Most women will be reassured by their result and even if women are told after screening they have an increased chance (higher risk) of finding a problem, most within this group will have a healthy baby.

Even though most people are reassured as a result of screening, the primary purpose is to discover whether the unborn baby has a condition such as Down's syndrome, spina bifida or a heart problem.

Most parents we talked to had therefore spent some time discussing what they would do if they found their baby did have such a condition. For some this had been an easy process, and they had quickly reached agreement. Others found it harder to broach the subject and sometimes uncovered differences in their thinking.

Some had thought through different options in some detail, including whether or not they would react differently to different conditions. One woman described how her and her husband's attitudes differed on physical disabilities and learning disabilities such as Down's syndrome. Another couple found they had different attitudes, but they had only discussed their views after getting the screening results.

Not everyone felt the need for a lot of discussion, although one woman thought she and her partner's views might change another time now that they already have a baby. Another mother and her husband had found it difficult to start the discussion, but then agreed quickly. Some people mentioned that they did not want to influence their partner's thinking.

Many people commented that even if you had discussed in principle what you would do, you could not predict how you might react in reality if you were told your baby had a particular condition. One woman who was certain she and her partner would not have considered a termination might still have considered having an amniocentesis if her scan results had left her feeling very anxious and uncertain.

Some people had decided they could not make any decisions in principle unless and until they found out something was wrong. They had therefore decided to postpone any more detailed discussion or thinking until they had further information to discuss. Sometimes this was partly because women and their partners discovered they had rather different views to each other on what they would do.

See also 'Reasons for not having some or all screening' and 'Attitudes to disability and termination.'

Last reviewed June 2014.
Last updated August 2010.

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