For some women, pregnancy comes without much effort at all. For others, it may take years of monumental dedication and state-of-the-art medical technology. When pregnancy doesn’t come easy, when it requires medical intervention via in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technology (ART), do those pregnancies attract special attention? Do they merit special attention? Is any pregnancy more precious than the others? These are questions recently explored by a team of medical researchers from Plymouth University in the United Kingdom.

Some prenatal screening tests, such as amniocentesis, create a bit of risk by requiring access to the womb for the collection of tissue samples. Previous research indicates that the method of conception - spontaneous or via assisted reproductive technologies (ART) - influences a woman’s decision to choose such tests or forego them. The Plymouth team wanted to delve deeper into the decision from the doctor’s perspective.

The team invited obstetricians and gynecologists in Israel to complete, anonymously, an online questionnaire presenting a hypothetical medical case and 163 of them accepted the offer. One case scenario involved the question of amniocentesis for a pregnant woman who conceived spontaneously. The other case was exactly the same in all respects except conception was via ART.

  • Of the 85 doctors who got the spontaneous pregnancy test case, 37 of them (43.5%) recommended the screening test be taken.
  • Of the 78 reviewing the ART test case, 15 (19.2%) of them recommended amniocentesis.
  • The frequency of amniocentesis recommendations were 3.2 times higher in the spontaneous conception case than in the ART case.

The research team finds this outcome to be evidence that physicians do indeed allow the method of conception to influence their recommendations for amniocentesis to their pregnant patients. The researchers also acknowledge that each physician who participated in the study might have responded differently in a clinical setting with a real patient.

Dr. Yaniv Hanoch, an associate professor of psychology who was part of the research team, was quoted in the online edition of the BBC News as saying, “When considering a procedure that may endanger a pregnancy, the value ascribed to loss of that pregnancy may seem greater if the pregnancy was achieved by tremendous effort.”

Source: Hanoch, Yaniv, et al. “Physician recommendation for invasive prenatal testing: the case of the ‘precious baby (abstract).’” Human Reproduction. European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. Sep 17, 2013. Web. Jan 7, 2014.