Inescapable burden of choice? The impact of a culture of prenatal screening on women's experiences of pregnancy

Donovan, Sarah
October 2006
Health Sociology Review;Oct2006, Vol. 15 Issue 4, p397
Academic Journal
Drawing on research in progress, this paper examines the costs for pregnant women of trends towards routine screening in pregnancy. In particular, the notion that the array of choices contingent with prenatal screening may constitute an unwelcome ethical burden for pregnant women will be considered, as well as the extent to which women are able to give free and informed consent for screening. The development of new technologies in the area of reproductive health, including new tests to detect fetal abnormality during pregnancy, has triggered considerable ethical debate about the possible benefits and dangers of such screening. While such debate has tended to focus on the value of the individual technologies themselves, the ethics of how the technologies are implemented, of how the encounter between lay people and biotechnology is best to be conducted, have received comparatively little attention. This is particularly true in the case of prenatal ultrasound, a technology which has increasingly become part of routine prenatal care for the majority of pregnant women. This discussion will consider whether such screening may contribute to an ideological climate in which it may no longer be possible to experience pregnancy as a 'normal' embodied state. As an area of concern identified by participants in this research, the issue of informed consent for prenatal screening will be a key focus, including a brief case study highlighting one participant's experience.


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