The psychological impact of false positive elevations of maternal serum α-fetoprotein

Barbara K. Burton*, Robert G. Dillard, Elizabeth N. Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to assess the psychological impact of maternal serum α-fetoprotein screening on pregnant women with false positive elevations of maternal serum α-fetoprotein and on their male partners. Subjects with maternal serum α-fetoprotein elevations and their partners exhibited significantly heightened anxiety as measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory following notification of the elevation, and this anxiety persisted until normal results were obtained by further testing. Heightened anxiety was not alleviated by counseling prior to definitive testing. Once normal results were obtained, anxiety returned to control levels and heightened anxiety was not observed throughout the remainder of pregnancy. Maternal serum α-fetoprotein elevations had little effect on maternal attitudes toward pregnancy as measured by the Maternal Attitudes to Pregnancy Inventory. Similarly, no differences were observed between subjects with normal and elevated maternal serum α-fetoprotein levels with regard to depression, marital discord, work attendance, or work productivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-82
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1985


  • anxiety
  • neural tube defects
  • pregnancy
  • α-Fetoprotein screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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