OBJECTIVES: to examine how Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese women experience prenatal testing and to examine their knowledge and communication with health-care providers. SETTING: Melbourne Metropolitan Area, Victoria, Australia. DESIGN: an ethnographic study of childbearing and childrearing among women born in South-east Asia and now living in Melbourne, Australia reporting in-depth interviews with 67 women who had given birth in Australia. FINDINGS: nearly all the women had prenatal testing as advised by their doctors and their main concerns were about their unborn baby and the need to follow doctors' advice. The women felt 'indifferent' towards prenatal testing, perceiving it as a normal part of antenatal care in Australia. Despite agreeing to undertake prenatal testing, the women did not have adequate understanding of the tests. This may be due to lack of information per se or inadequate communication between health providers and women. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: inevitably, the onus rests with the health-care provider to ensure that all options available to women are understood, so that women can make a positive and informed choice regardless of their social or cultural background. This will lead to women's increased satisfaction with care during pregnancy.