Different communication strategies for disclosing results of diagnostic prenatal testing

Some parents want reassurance that their baby is all right genetically. Two studies (involving 286 women) compared the anxiety levels in women who, after amniocentesis, were given the results of rapid testing within few days with those who waited on average 18 days for definitive result.

One study reported a statistically significant reduction in the average anxiety during the waiting period for women who had had a rapid test, but the other found no difference between the two groups. There was also no evidence to support the view that issuing amniocentesis results as soon as they are available is more user friendly than informing women on a pre-defined fixed date.

The results remain inconclusive and, therefore, for the time being the choice of communication strategies should be influenced by clinical arguments and cost-effectiveness rather than impact on anxiety. Studies evaluating the effect of different strategies for disclosing results on women anxiety for chorionic villous sampling are needed.

Authors' conclusions: 

We found no conclusive evidence that, while waiting for the full karyotype following amniocentesis, issuing results from a rapid analysis reduces maternal anxiety. The limited evidence from the two trials included in this review does not help resolve the dilemma about whether full karyotyping should be abandoned in favour of limited rapid testing for women undergoing Down's syndrome screening. This choice will rest on clinical arguments and cost-effectiveness rather than impact on anxiety.

There is also no evidence to support the view that issuing amniocentesis results as soon as they are available is more user friendly than using a pre-defined fixed date. Studies evaluating the effect of different strategies for disclosing results on women anxiety for CVS are needed.

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Background: 

Any screening program aiming to reassure pregnant women that their unborn baby is healthy will cause anxiety while waiting for the test results.

Objectives: 

1) To determine if revealing amniocentesis or chorionic villous sampling (CVS) results on a fixed date alters maternal anxiety during the waiting period, compared with a policy of revealing the result “when available” (i.e. variable date).

 2) To evaluate whether issuing early results from a rapid molecular test alters maternal anxiety during the waiting period.

 3) To evaluate whether different methods of communication (telephone, fax, email, face to face) have any impact on the parents' satisfaction and anxiety levels.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (31 August 2010).

Selection criteria: 

All published and unpublished randomised trials, in which methods of issuing prenatal test results are compared.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors (Faris Mujezinovic and Zarko Alfirevic) assessed eligibility and trial quality and performed data extraction.

Main results: 

Two studies (involving 286 women) from amniocentesis (but none from CVS) compared the impact of communicating results of rapid testing with waiting for definitive karyotype. Unfortunately, it was not possible to perform pooled analysis because one study reported only median (interquartile range) data, presumably because the data were not normally distributed.

One study reported a statistically significant reduction in the average anxiety during the waiting period for women who had had a rapid test compared with those who had not (mean difference (MD) -2.30, 95% confidence intervals (CI) -3.08 to - 1.52). The other study compared median (interquartile range) for the trait- and state-anxiety scores and found no difference between the two groups.

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