Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Testing 1-2-3

Because of my advanced maternal age, I have been offered birth defects screening. In fact, it's recommended. The S.O. and I have some differing views on the tests. Having suffered a miscarriage in the past, I worry about the risk of the tests. My doc says the risk of a miscarriage from the tests is about one in 250 compared to the about one in 40 chance of someone my age having a baby with Down Syndrome. (Side note: My doctor, who has been practicing in the area for several decades, says she has only had two patients give birth to Down Syndrome babies. Which makes me think the odds are a little off.)

My other issue with the tests is that nowhere do I read that these tests can DEFINITIVELY tell us that our baby WILL have a birth defect. They also can't tell us how severe the problem might be. On top of that, there are no tests for autism -- which is much more prevalent. And there's no test to tell me if my baby will grow up to be an ax-wielding maniac, a reality-TV contestant, a big jerk or a Nobel Prize winner.

At this point, I'm doing everything I can to nurture and protect this pregnancy. And I'm not sure these tests contribute to that. Am I afraid of raising a child with Down Syndrome? Honestly (and totally selfishly), yes. I am afraid. Because I don't know enough about it. Perhaps knowing ahead of time would allow me to prepare for such a life.

Of course, the other side of the coin is would knowing make me want to terminate this pregnancy that I thought wasn't supposed to happen?

I think I know the answer to that last question and I'm not sure the S.O. shares my view. Obviously, it's something we need to discuss more. And whether or not to have the first of these tests is something we're supposed to decide in the next week or so.

Is it better to know? What if the tests are all negative, and everything's fine, but I have a miscarriage?

It all makes me what to bury my head in the sand.


  1. Do the tests have to take place now when the pregnancy is so new? Can't it wait until mid-second trimester for a high-risk pregnancy? If so, that makes a big difference.

    If not... well, I can't tell you what to do, of course. Personally, I would hold off on the tests. Even if just for weeks.

  2. I'm a head-in-the-sand kind of person. It doesn't seem the tests guarantee a definitive answer, so you're still left wondering about so much even after having the test. Of course when *I* had MY babies (that's said in old-lady grandma voice), tests weren't as common. I had no tests with my girls. Not even ultrasounds ... well, except for one near the end with Andie because she'd been still for a while (the ONLY time in her whole life!). I'm not a good one to listen to since I'm of the "whatever will be, will be" philosophy. Que sera, sera! And good luck on all counts (S.O. convincing and otherwise!).

  3. Thanks for the words of wisdom, ladies.

  4. I had trouble deciding what to do testing-wise, and I wasn't even high-risk. I declined any testing with my first, and then I took the tests with my second. (They were blood tests, though, to be followed by the more invasive ones if the blood tests showed elevated chance of birth defects.) The first time, I was afraid of being pressured to terminate if something was wrong. The second time, I knew I was strong enough to tell people to go to hell if they gave me advice I didn't want, and I thought it would be better to be prepared.

    When I declined the tests the first time, the doctor told me they'd be able to spot most of the same defects on the ultrasounds anyway -- and the ultrasounds carry much lower (if any?) risks.

    It's a tough call. I think Kate's advice sounds pretty good, though. It seems so early to be taking an extra risk right now.

  5. Heather, this (and Kate's and Lisa's) advice is definitely the kind I need. Thank you!