Many women and families choose prenatal testing for reasons of “preparation.” However, “preparation” likely means very different things to families, clinicians, and support groups, since there are no official definitions or recommendations for it. To improve the information and support offered to families after a prenatal genetic diagnosis, we must first understand their needs, and how existing clinical and social supports meet or fail to meet those needs. By unpacking the concept of “preparation,” documenting the ways that different stakeholders understand this concept, and assessing its impacts, this project will help clear a path toward more coordinated efforts to inform and support families who are expecting a child with a genetic condition.

We plan to pursue our project’s aims through 3 research activities:

  1. A prospective interview study of women/couples who have received prenatal or postnatal diagnoses of a genetic condition. At each of our three sites (Cleveland metro, North Carolina Triangle area, and Bronx New York), we plan to recruit up to 30 families with a prenatal diagnosis and 20 families with a postnatal diagnosis, and interview each of them 2-3 times (prenatally when possible, 3-6 months postnatal, 1 year postnatal).
  2. Interviews with local clinicians at each of our three sites, and with local and national patient advocacy groups, to understand how clinicians and groups support women/families who receive a genetic diagnosis.
  3. A review of findings and deliberation by an expert panel, to build a model of prenatal preparation that can be adapted to a variety of fetal genetic conditions.

About the study director:

Marsha Michie is an anthropologist and empirical bioethicist whose prior research on prenatal cell-free DNA screening has been funded by NIH (R00 HG006452). She has published numerous articles on the ethical and social implications of prenatal cfDNA screening and co-edited a special journal issue on this topic (AJOB Empirical Bioethics 6(1), January 2015). She co-founded the Prenatal Information Research Consortium, a coalition of researchers investigating the social, ethical, and legal implications of prenatal and preconceptional testing, where she and other members maintain a blog. Marsha received her PhD in Anthropology at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2010 and received postdoctoral training in ELSI research and bioethics at UNC and Stanford University. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. More information available at marshamichie.com.