Journal of Professional Nursing

Recognising Complexity And Contradiction: Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis  

Deborah Payne, RN, PhD, MCNA(NZ), Senior Lecturer, Division of Health  Care Practice, Faculty of Health, Auckland University of Technology

Reference:  Payne, D. (2004). Recognising complexity and contradiction: Prenatal genetic diagnosis. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 20(3), 13-20. 


Twenty women, who had experienced pregnancy and birth when aged 35 or over,  were interviewed in relation to prenatal genetic testing. Foucauldian discourse  analysis of the interview texts revealed a particular subjectivity for the woman or  the baby with chromosomal anomaly, and that these subjectivities were often  competing and contradictory. Attention is drawn to the relevance of such  information for nurses who increasingly are dealing with clients for whom diagnosis  or treatment, using genetic technology, plays a part.       

Maternal age, prenatal genetic diagnosis, discourse, subjectivity       

Genetic testing has the potential to  change the way in which certain  conditions are prevented or treated.  Prenatal genetic diagnosis is one form  of genetic surveillance whereby the  diagnosis of genetic ‘abnormalities’ in  the foetus is possible (Reid, 1990).  Technological advances mean that  some pregnant women now have to  decide whether to submit their  unborn child to genetic testing. The  present study, using discourse  analysis, was undertaken to further  understandings of how women come  to make these decisions. An  additional purpose was to generate  information which would assist  nurses to be maximally effective when  interacting with clients involved in  such situations.  continued

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