Prenatal Testing: Helpful or Heartless?
February 19, 2007 3:47pm CST
I am pregnant with my first child, which is both exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I have been doing massive amounts of reading and it seems that there is always something else that I should be concerned about, or shouldn't eat, and so on. The most disturbing of my experiences so far was at the doctor's office after I had my first ultrasound. It was the first time I'd seen a doctor (I'd seen nurses up until then because I'm in a very isolated community right now) and he wanted to inform me about prenatal testing for down syndrome. Down syndrome is a disease caused when a child has an extra chromosome (47 instead of 46) - it can now be identified prenatally through screening and diagnostic tests. Basically, a screening test is noninvasive (blood test or ultrasound measurements) and just indicates the probability of having a baby with DS. This is voluntary (at least, in Canada) but some parents choose to do it to assess their risk. If the risk seems high, the parents can opt to have a diagnostic test done. This type of test involves inserting a needle into the mother's abdomen and taking a sample of either amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds the baby), the placenta, or the blood from the umbilical cord. This test is linked to early labor and miscarriage so it's very controversial. As soon as the doctor started talking about this, I felt symptoms of panic. Naturally, every mother hopes that her child will be born healthy and fears the unknown. When he mentioned the testing first, I'll admit that my first thought was "well, better to be tested than not, just to be sure" but when he started talking about the dangers associated with such a test, I was appalled. Why would anyone choose to have a diagnostic test if it could result in the death of their baby? The doctor told us that some people choose to have this testing done because if they do find out that they are having a child with DS (or even if their risk is high) they will choose to terminate the pregnancy. The thought horrifies me. With personal feelings about abortion aside (because I recognize that there are shades of grey that some people do not acknowledge), I feel that having a test done specifically to decide whether or not to terminate the baby is heartless. Also, the timing upsets me a lot. The doctor told me that the diagnostic testing can be done up until 20 weeks... that's halfway through a 40 week pregnancy. Isn't that a little late? I know that I'm almost 21 weeks now and I'm already very, very attached to this little one... I can feel him/her kicking and moving and the thought of ending his/her life is disturbing and makes me want to cry. Does anyone have any more insight into why such testing is available and how popular it really is? Maybe I'm missing something here... Thanks for listening... Ash
21 Feb 07
well i also think that prenatal testing is heartless to some extent..coz some times these testings force us to think this and that of pregnancy..and that too lead to some kind of tensions in mind,it shd be done bt doctors shd not tell so much to the mother that gives tension to her aftrall taking tension in this stage is also risky.
22 Feb 07
I agree with you... just thinking of the topic causes tension and anxiety and fear (I mean, obviously nobody wants to think that their child might be anything but 100% healthy) and it is definitely a strain on a person at any time, especially during pregnancy. If the diagnostic test wasn't so invasive, and didn't have such HIGH risks associated with it, then maybe I wouldn't have such a huge problem with being tested just for the sake of knowing and being able to prepare. As it is, I think it's just not worth the risk of finding out.
• United States
19 Feb 07
I am confused. Did the blood test show your child could have a problem? If not, don't worry. I mean there are a million things that could go wrong with any pregancy or even when the child is born. Just pray to your own higher power for the strength to go thru anything. I had the test done with all 3 pregnancies and I just hoped and prayed for the best. The results were not going to determine keeping the baby or not. I knew I loved the child inside of me no matter what. My middle child has a few problems and I don't wish I would have known before his arrival. He is so beautiful. Good Luck!
22 Feb 07
Thanks for your advice. I actually chose not to have the tests done because I am certain that I would have and love my baby regardless. I love this child a lot already and I'm only 21 weeks pregnant. Sorry if my first posting was confusing... I am glad that your children are all well and I am sure that you will be able to help your middle child overcome his problems. God bless.
19 Feb 07
When I had the choice about having Downs testing I immediately decided not to have it because I knew I would love the little baby inside me even if it did have something wrong with it. Now you have an attachment to your baby I think it would be better for you not to have to think about the possibility of having to get rid of it if it is a Down's baby. However if you want to take the test just to know either way then that is different.
22 Feb 07
I also chose not to have the testing done. I agree with you completely - this baby is already so much a part of me. It really upset me to think that at this stage in pregnancy, a test could convince someone to abort the baby. I think that you're right in that it's different to find out just to know and be able to prepare yourself (so that you do more reading to find out ways to help your baby, find proper care outlets, etc.). Thanks so much for your response. I hope your baby was born healthy. :-)