You’re Pregnant. How Do You Decide About Prenatal Testing?

“It’s noninvasive,” my doctor said. “It just offers you some information about your baby.”

I was 28-years-old, pregnant for the first time, and we were discussing prenatal testing. A simple noninvasive blood test sounded good to me, so I stuck out my arm. I didn’t think about the test again.

A week or two later, my doctor called. She sounded almost accusatory about trying to track me down. As it turned out, the prenatal test run on my blood sample showed an increased chance that I was carrying a baby with trisomy 21, commonly known as Down syndrome. Only then did I begin to ask some of the questions I wish I had considered when I agreed to the tests in the first place: Exactly what information would these tests provide? Why would I want it? What would I do in response to whatever I learned? I had treated the decision to accept prenatal genetic testing as an inconsequential matter that required minimal discomfort and no risk to my health. But I now realized that my initial decision could lead to a series of life-changing ethical, emotional, and spiritual choices that I wasn’t prepared to make.

Nearly eight years have passed since my first experience with prenatal testing. Now, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant women, regardless of age or other risk factors, be offered prenatal genetic testing. In other words, each pregnant woman will likely face a decision about whether to stick out her arm for a blood draw, and women need better preparation for the questions and choices those tests might provoke.

Continue reading You’re Pregnant. How Do You Decide About Prenatal Testing on The Huffington Post Parents

Photo credit Phil Dutton

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. Susan_G1 says:

    As a physician, I felt it my moral duty to offer informed prenatal testing, but always with the question, what will you do if it’s positive? If the answer was, nothing, I advised them to pass. When I myself became pregnant at an older age and I was offered prenatal testing, I simply declined for each pregnancy. None of the ~ 100 children I delivered had a defect or disability.

    I know a lot of physicians; few would offer a prenatal test without that question. I would add that I would never stick out my arm for a test the value of which I didn’t understand, and I would advise my patients similarly. There is nothing inherently wrong about offering prenatal testing. There is something wrong about patients not participating in their own medical care.

    I’m sorry you suffered needlessly. The answer is not to question the wisdom of the College of OB-GYN. It is to advocate on behalf of informed consent.

  2. Millie Hansen says:

    I had gotten an amniocentesis after an abnormal ultrasound, and the prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome actually saved my son’s life. Because of this diagnosis, my doctor ordered a specialized ultrasound at 30 weeks due to an increased risk of placental breakdown. Lo and behold, at 30 weeks the specialist found that my placenta was starting to do just that, and Lukas was born 10 days later after strict bed rest and careful monitoring. We was 3 pounds and a fighter. Now he’s a 7 year-old who reads and loves watching Super Why. Every woman will want to have testing done for different reasons, and I am grateful that my doctor encouraged me to consider the amnio so that we could best care for the baby. So many people were shocked at my decision, and I understand the controversy. But for me it was the right decision, and like I said, it probably saved his life.

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