Reader K writes:
I have a question. How do you all approach the prenatal testing that is available? I got a chill when a nurse suggested yesterday that I get testing done early so that I could “do something about it” before I’m out of the first trimester. I’m almost 37, and this is only my second pregnancy, but there wasn’t this pressure with my first.
K, great question.
Just to give you some insight into my personal experiences, I have never opted to have the AFP (alphfetoprotein, triple screen, or quad screen) testing. It tests the mother’s blood for the presence of AFP (and other serums), secreted by the baby’s liver, which can indicate a host of anomalies, including neural tube defects, Down syndrome, kidney disorders, and others. According to my midwife, of the AFP tests showing a positive reading, 90% are false positives, unnecessarily scaring the heck out of the poor parents! Positive AFP tests can (and usually are) followed up with an ultrasound and possibly an amniocentesis/chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Many times an u/s is all that is necessary to confirm/discredit the AFP results. Amnios and CVS carry risks (1-2%) of losing the baby.
Most likely you are planning to have an u/s midway through the pregnancy anyway, so my opinion is–WAIT for the u/s and you’ll have all the information you ever wanted without having to endure more tests and a potential scare!! Present a firm “no” to your care providers and let that be the end of the story!
Now, as a disclaimer, some friends have recently been encouraged toward early testing with the promise of an additional second trimester u/s. Presented with such an option, I might go for it too! I can never see my little one too much during the pregnancy…