Obstetric patients’ perspectives on functional magnetic neuroimaging research in pregnant women
Magnetic resonance neuroimaging (MRI) studies of healthy pregnant women could identify key mechanisms of spontaneous health behavior changes observed in expectant mothers as novel intervention targets, but are currently unprecedented. As balancing potential benefits of research with unknown risks, including participant perceptions of risk, is foundational to ethical conduct, we surveyed a convenience obstetric sample to understand pregnant women’s perspectives on this issue. Respondents were 76 pregnant women (modal age of 30–39 years; 64% multiparous) presenting for obstetric care from April to June 2016 at privately and publicly funded clinics at an urban academic medical center in the Midwestern USA. Following a written description about functional magnetic resonance neuroimaging (fMRI) and its known and unknown risks, women were queried on their willingness to participate in a hypothetical study involving fMRI during pregnancy, and specific concerns about doing so, if hesitant or unwilling. Willingness to participate was “yes” (28.4%, n = 21), “maybe” (28.4%, n = 21), and “no” (43.2%, n = 32). Among those responding “maybe” or “no” (n = 53, 73.6%), 11 women (20.7%) articulated concern about the fetus. Other concerns expressed were time commitment (n = 11, 20.7%) and discomfort being in an MRI machine (n = 4; 7.5%). Pregnant women may be open to participating in research involving MRI provided concerns about fetal health, time, and personal comfort are addressed.
KeywordsPregnancy Plasticity fMRI Neuroimaging Ethics Survey study
We thank all participants and obstetric staff who made this study possible.
This study was supported by grant 5K23 DA 037913 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Dr. Massey. NIDA and NIH had no role in the study design, data collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, or the decision to submit this work for publication.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The Department of Psychiatry at Northwestern University receives contractual fees for Dr. Wisner’s consultation to Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP (New York City), who represents Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company. Authors Newmark, Zaydlin, Yang, Kuchenrither, and Massey have no conflicts of interest to report.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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