Study probes ‘precious baby’ effect
Monday 4th November 2013, 12:10PM GMT.
Doctors are affected by “precious baby” phenomenon and give different advice to parents who do not conceive naturally, academics have suggested.
An international study found those who conceive through assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are likely to receive different medical advice compared to parents who conceive naturally.
The research revealed almost 45% of clinicians would immediately recommend a 37-year-old mother undergo amniocentesis – an invasive prenatal test which screens for Down’s syndrome – if she had conceived naturally.
But it found just 19% of doctors would recommend the procedure for a mother whose baby had been conceived through assisted technologies.
Previous research has suggested parents who conceive through ART may be more likely to opt for Caesarian section births in an attempt to minimise any perceived risk to their baby.
Academics say their work now suggests evidence that doctors are also affected by the so-called ‘precious baby’ phenomenon.
Dr Yaniv Hanoch, associate professor in Psychology at Plymouth University, co-wrote the study, which is published in the Human Reproductive scientific journal.
“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,” Dr Hanoch said.
“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.”
The study was undertaken by Dr Hanoch alongside Dr Naama Srebnik and Dr Avi Tsafrir, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Dr Talya Miron-Shatz, from the Centre for Medical Decision Making, Ono Academic College; and Dr Jonathan J Rolison, from the School of Psychology at Queen’s University, Belfast.
It used answers from around 160 obstetricians and gynaecologists, who completed an anonymous questionnaire based on a hypothetical scenario.
Half were told the expectant mother had conceived naturally, while the other half were told ART had been used.
In total, almost a third, or 31.9%, immediately recommended amniocentesis, with a further 31.3% recommending the procedure after seeking further clarification about the apparent high risk to mother and baby.
However, this figure differed when the nature of pregnancy was taken into account.
Researchers also noted the clinician’s experience and use of the procedure, with results showing longer service in the medical profession to have some correlation with their willingness to offer amniocentesis.
The researchers added: “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.”
‘Physician recommendation for invasive prenatal testing: the case of the ‘precious baby’ is published in Human Reproduction.