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Attitudes towards prenatal diagnosis and termination of pregnancy for thalassaemia in pregnant Pakistani women in the North of England

Shenaz Ahmed1*, Josephine M. Green2 and Jenny Hewison1 1Academic Unit of Psychiatry & Behavioural Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9LT, UK 2Mother & Infant Research Unit, University of York, York, Y10 5DD, UK

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Objectives Most births of children affected with β-thalassaemia major in the United Kingdom are to
parents of Pakistani origin. A popular explanation for this is that Pakistanis decline termination of pregnancy
on religious grounds. However, various factors influence people’s attitudes towards prenatal diagnosis and
termination of pregnancy, which have not been investigated in a UK Pakistani sample. This study is aimed at
exploring the attitudes of pregnant Pakistani women towards prenatal diagnosis and termination of pregnancy
for β-thalassaemia major in the North of England.
Methods Forty-three pregnant women tested for thalassaemia carrier status were interviewed following
receipt of their test results. Interviews were analysed using the grounded theory approach.
Results Findings showed: (1) women’s awareness of and attitudes towards prenatal diagnosis; (2) the
relationship between attitudes towards prenatal diagnosis and termination of an affected foetus; (3) the
relationship between attitudes towards termination of pregnancy and religious beliefs, perceptions of severity
of the condition, influence of significant others, and (4) the impact of gestational age at the time of the offer
of termination of pregnancy.
Conclusions Pakistani women’s attitudes towards prenatal diagnosis and termination of pregnancy are
influenced by various factors, and therefore their religion should not be taken as a proxy for their attitudes
either for or against termination of pregnancy.