Older mothers are avoiding the prenatal tests of amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling even though they are free.
A survey among older mothers in Victoria, Australia has discovered that 43 per cent of women aged between 37 and 39, and 29 per cent of those aged 40 and over, opted not to have the tests.
Researchers believe this may be a social phenomenon. They found that women who spoke no English or lived in rural areas were less likely to have a test than those who gave birth in a private hospital (The Lancet, March 18, 1995).
Similar reservations were not expressed by pregnant women in Denmark over the alpha-fetoprotein test, used to test for brain and spinal defects in the fetus. Their enthusiasm was not dampened even when they went through unnecessary worry from a false reading during an earlier pregnancy.
About 67 per cent of those who suffered a false reading said they would still want the test the next time around; 91 per cent of those who had a normal reading said they would have the test repeated (Danish Medical Bulletin, 1995; 42: 100-5).