Prenatal testing: pokes, prods, and possibilities

Last week, a friend posted an excerpt of an article on his blog pointing to the New York Times' Motherlode blog. Last week, the NYT blog posted the story of a mother who has chosen to not do the screening tests for down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities while she was pregnant, despite already having a child with down syndrome. This post apparently sparked a backlash in the comments, and was followed up with a post by the same mother, asking "Is it harder to have a child with Down Syndrome?" and a post by a commenter who did have the testing done, but didn't agree with her husband on what to do with the results.

In my research before my first prenatal appointment, I learned that there are a variety of tests to determine an unborn baby's risk for chromosomal abnormalities. An ultrasound done between 10-13 weeks called the nuchal scan, combined with a blood test, is the earliest. The quad screen is another blood test done in the second trimester. If either of these come back with questionable results, more invasive tests- CVS and amniocentesis- can give more definitive results, but both come with a risk of causing miscarriage of a perfectly healthy pregnancy.

So what did I do? None of it. I mean, I got my typical blood draws at the beginning of pregnancy, checking for iron levels and disease & such- but declined these prenatal diagnostic tests. I am thankful that my midwives didn't bat an eye, and just marked it on my chart without question. Why would I refuse these medical advancements? Perhaps a better question- why would I choose to test?

Apparently the vast majority of those who test and get a positive result choose to terminate the pregnancy- something in the range of 92% of parents, according to the Washington Post. This isn't an option for Josh & I- this child is loved and wanted through and through. The tests wouldn't change our minds. If the simple blood test came back with a risk for one of these conditions, I wouldn't want the elevated risk of miscarriage the subsequent tests cause, so would decline the invasive tests- leaving us just to worry for 6 months. No thank you!

Once upon a time, before this little boy was in my belly, while we were still hoping for him, I read this birth story. I've read lots and lots of birth stories over the last year, trying to prepare myself for what might be coming- and this is the first that made me cry. It's beautiful and heartfelt and emotionally raw. Even just now, scrolling through it, I teared up, at this beautiful mother and beautiful daughter and beautiful family. Also, it reminds me to pack my camera for the birth. The pictures are gorgeous.


Corinne said...

I hate all of the current emphasis on screening tests. The medical community makes it sound so necessary and foolproof, but the reality is that there are a lot of false positives and false negatives - especially with the earlier tests. I can't see early screening being very useful unless you have a family history of issues and you wanted to ensure a normal baby. Don't get me started on the all of the wasted money on pap smears . . .

"The Queen of Free" said...

We didn't do any of those screenings either and my OB also didn't bat an eye. It's good to have a caregiver who understand who you are at your core.


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