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7 November 2013
"Precious baby" phenomenon affecting medico decision-making

Parents who conceive through assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as IVF are likely to receive different medical advice in relation to prenatal testing than those who conceive naturally, suggests a new multi-institute study.

The study used answers from 160 obstetricians and gynecologists who completed an anonymous questionnaire based around a hypothetical scenario.

The study revealed that 45 percent of clinicians would recommend a 37-year-old mother undergo amniocentesis (an invasive test which screens for Down syndrome) if she had conceived naturally. However, just 19 percent of doctors would recommend the procedure for a mother whose baby had been conceived through assisted technologies.

Previous research papers have suggested parents who conceive through ART may be more likely to opt for birth by Caesarean section, rather than a natural birth, in an attempt to minimize any perceived risk to their baby.

In the new study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, the researchers suggest there may now be evidence that doctors are also affected by the so-called "precious baby" phenomenon.

"Some pregnancies are deemed by parents to be more valuable than others, particularly if conception has taken several courses of assisted reproductive treatment to achieve. But you might expect clinical recommendations regarding pregnancies to remain consistent, particularly when it comes to tests for serious medical conditions. However, this study demonstrates there may be a tendency for clinicians to be affected by the nature of the pregnancy before determining the parents' wishes," noted study co-author Yaniv Hanoch, from Plymouth University (UK).

The doctors' breadths of experience were also taken into account, with results showing longer service in the medical profession to have some correlation with their willingness to offer amniocentesis.

"Even without a medical indication, more clinicians would recommend amniocentesis to a woman with normal screening test results in a spontaneous pregnancy than to one who had undergone ART. Thus far, researchers have provided only indirect evidence to support the claim of differential management of ART pregnancies, but our findings show they do not appear to be immune to the 'precious baby' phenomenon," the researchers conclude.

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Source: Plymouth University

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