Antenatal Screening

Views on antenatal screening & feelings in later pregnancies

Looking back, most people were glad they had found out before birth there was something wrong with their baby, and thought screening was valuable in giving people information to make choices. 

With hindsight, many felt they and other pregnant women making decisions about screening did not know enough about what could go wrong. At the same time, they did not want to frighten other women needlessly, as one mother explained (see also Interview 18 below ). 

She was concerned about uneven standards of screening provision, training and equipment around the country, and thought more data on screening risks and outcomes should be collected nationally.

The experience of discovering their baby had a particular condition or disability made some people question whether they would want to know another time. One mother and her husband disagreed about this. She considered not having any screening in her next pregnancies. Although she did eventually have screening, she now felt more aware that it cannot give definite answers and in some ways raises more questions.

Other parents felt more strongly than ever that they would want screening and would make the same choices. At the same time, many reflected that screening and indeed the whole of pregnancy have become a time of anxiety and tension for them, unlike other expectant parents.

Even when screening tests come back with low risk results, the reassurance and relief is often short-lived, and several people said they would never feel really secure until they had a healthy baby in their arms. Some felt the need for frequent checks to reassure them the baby was still alive.

All the people we talked to who had had a termination had wanted another baby, and most were either pregnant again or had already had another baby. However, one mother explained how their previous experiences had made her husband doubtful about wanting another baby. He was reluctant to risk going through the same feelings of being out of control and unable to protect his wife from what was happening to her. 

When pregnant again, people sometimes came across staff who were not particularly sensitive to their increased levels of anxiety, but many had found staff sympathetic and reassuring.

Administrative errors could be upsetting. In their next pregnancy, one couple were given the folder with scan results from their previous pregnancy by mistake.

Some people decided that they did not want blood tests in subsequent pregnancies, but would rather rely on scans (see also 'Blood test screening'). The need for certainty rather than a risk assessment led some people to choose a diagnostic test such as CVS or amniocentesis instead of or in addition to screening tests. 

For example, one woman went on to have an amniocentesis although her risk from the nuchal scan was 1 in 600, which was lower than the average for other women her age. (See also 'Deciding whether to have further diagnostic tests'). 

Another described how she and her husband disagreed about whether to have CVS, which she eventually did.

In common with several other parents, she found it hard to understand why having previously had an affected pregnancy was automatically included as an extra risk factor, even though genetic testing had suggested it was a one-off event, not hereditary. 

In contrast, some people who had thought they would need the certainty of a diagnostic test were surprised to find they felt differently after getting a low risk screening result.

The risk of miscarriage from invasive testing when they had already lost one baby seemed too great when their screening risk was low.

Last reviewed July 2017.


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