Getting There – Special Section on Pregnancy in the Washington Post
The Washington Post Health & Science section on August 27, 2013 features several interesting articles on the impact of prenatal testing on the well-being of the pregnant woman and family, including “Pregnant and paranoid: Excess Testing Ruins Bliss.”
To see the online version, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/pregnancy-paranoia-there-are-so-many-things-to-make-you-nervous/2013/08/26/60e51c08-df4f-11e2-b2d4-ea6d8f477a01_story.html. This report by Michael Alison Chandler in the Health section of the Washington Post discusses the every-expanding sources of information available to (and sometimes essentially forced on) pregnant women and their partners. “Ultrasound screening, prenatal testing and an explosion of Internet sites where expectant parents can explore every nuance of fetal development and every thing that can go wrong.” Rather than providing prospective parents with reassurance, these sources of information often lead to stress and anxiety, even (as is usually the case) when there is no actual problem.
The author notes that “financial incentives for doctors and a fear of litigation help fuel an abundantly cautious approach, experts say. And for many women, there is little disincentive to splurge for more tests when many insurance plans pick up most of the tab, said Katy Backes Kozhimannil, a University of Minnesota professor who studies health-care costs.” More and more obstetricians are buying expensive imaging equipment for their offices, and they have to pay for it – hence, they perform sequential and unneeded ultrasound studies on healthy women with normal pregnancies. Women tend not to object – they love seeing their baby move about on the screen and they don’t usually see the hefty bill, which goes directly to their insurance company.
According to Aaron Caughey, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine, all this testing “can exact an emotional toll on parents. Obstetricians rely frequently on noninvasive screening tests with uncertain and sometimes false-positive results, which they feel compelled to affirm or discount through more testing.”