Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Genetic Counseling

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Sarah Jane Noblin, M.S., C.G.C.

Committee Member

Jan Smith, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Claire Singletary, M.S., C.G.C.

Committee Member

Nicole Ruddock Hall, M.D.

Committee Member

Syed Hashmi, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joan Mastrobattista, M.D.


Most recognized pregnancies are completed without difficulty, yet there is always a 3-5% background risk to have a child with a birth defect. Amniocentesis, the most common type of prenatal diagnostic test, is used to detect chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome. Amniocentesis is associated with a risk of complications that can lead to a miscarriage, which is typically quoted to be between 1 in 300 and 1 in 500. Amniocentesis uptake rates are typically lowest within the Latina community, and although the factors related to this have been studied before, no specific conclusions have been reached.

The general population has a difficult time interpreting risks, as individuals vary in numeracy skills as well as personal factors that can influence risk perception. A recent study by Nuccio (2010) investigated the effect of anchoring, where a patient’s prior knowledge about a subject affects her risk perception, and how it relates to the uptake of amniocentesis within a diverse population in Houston, TX. The effect of anchoring on perceived amniocentesis-related miscarriage risk within the Latina population has not been previously examined.

A two-part questionnaire was completed by 96 Latinas receiving prenatal genetic counseling due to an increased risk to have a baby with a chromosome abnormality at various clinics in Houston, TX. The genetic counselor involved in the session completed a separate survey. This population was largely unfamiliar with surveys, risk figures, and prenatal testing. Only one individual was able to quantify the risk associated with amniocentesis prior to the genetic counseling. While the majority of women felt that the risk association with amniocentesis is very low to average, only 7 individuals pursued diagnostic testing through amniocentesis. Most women did not feel like the information gained from an amniocentesis would change the management of their pregnancy and/or they did not believe that their baby had a problem. Women, regardless of ethnicity, deserve individualized genetic counseling sessions that cater to their needs and desires regarding their prenatal care.


amniocentesis, risk, perception, numeracy, latinas, anchoring