Listening to the voices, a qualitative study to examine the attitudes of women related to the routine use of ultrasonography in pregnancy
Lewthwaite, Barbara Jean
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The routine use and growing dependence on sophisticated technology has continued to foster a medicalized approach to childbirth. Sonography or ultrasound is one of the most utilized forms of modern reproductive technology. When applied in obstetrics for specific clinical concerns, sonography provides valuable diagnostic information, however, there is limited evidence to support improved outcomes from the use of this technology as a "routine" prenatal screening test. The purpose of this study was to ask pregnant women about their attitudes toward prenatal sonography. A convenience sample of 20 women, who had undergone a prenatal scan, participated in a tape-recorded interview. Using a qualitative research method, guided by a feminist framework, five themes emerged from analysis of the narratives. These themes were: (a) "In Anticipation;" (b) "The Imaging Experience;" (c) "The Importance of Knowing;" (d) "The Next Time;" and (e) "The Ethics of It All." Key findings of this study suggest women: (a) want prenatal sonography; (b) are fostered to believe there is a "need" for this type of testing; (c) feel a prenatal scan will provide reassurance about the progress of their pregnancy; (d) feel an ultrasound is a "routine" prenatal test; (e) do not view sonography as a method of prenatal diagnosis; (f) want information on prenatal sonography to read prior to a scan; and (g) believe ultrasound to be safe technology. These findings are felt to result from the conceptualization of need, routinization of testing and the therapeutic imperative, all of which contribute further to the medicalization of childbirth. Implications for health care practice and recommendations for further research have been suggested on the basis of these findings. Hopefully, this information may assist policy makers in designing "women" sensitive health care practice.