Monday, October 8, 2012

{31 for 21} Prenatal Testing

Everyone has their own beliefs on prenatal testing.  I'm not one to judge others for the decisions they make, as long as they make an educated decision based on facts.  There's two very common questions that I usually get.  1) Did you know about Kennedy's diagnosis before she was born?  2) Did you have prenatal testing with Caleb?

When I was pregnant with Kennedy, we made the decision not to have the genetic screenings.  It would not have changed anything, and we didn't want to worry about the chances of "false positives."  When she was born and the midwife explained that she thought Kennedy had Down syndrome our life was turned upside down, or so we thought.  Initially, I regretted our decision not to have the screening.  I wished we had known, in order to mentally prepare.  And then my midwife told me that we wouldn't have been able to have her at the birth center.  If that was the case, I was glad I didn't know.  The first few weeks were tough.  It was definitely the happiest time of our lives, but also a period of acceptance. 

When we got pregnant with Caleb, I already knew how amazing life was with Down syndrome.  I knew there was a slightly higher risk of having another child with Down syndrome.  I wasn't scared of Down syndrome.  I was however scared of the medical complications that could go along with it.  We made the decision not to have any testing, with the goal of having a home birth.  Our bubble was burst at one of my first prenatal appointments when the midwife told us that we would have to consult with an OB and have her approval because of Kennedy's history.  The doctor recommended an AFP screening and a level II ultrasound, before I could be approved to continue care with them.  The AFP screening scared me.  I didn't want to deal with odds or the "unknown."  But I also knew, no matter what the "odds" were, it wouldn't change things and I wouldn't have an amnio to confirm a diagnosis.  Fortunately, the MaterniT21 test was available, somewhat locally.  We traveled 2 hours to see a Maternal Fetal Medicine physician that ordered the test.  It was a long two weeks waiting for the results.  Like I said, the idea of another child with Ds didn't scare me.  But the idea of juggling Kennedy and a child in the NICU or one needed open heart surgery did scare me.  I was able to devote every second of my time to Kennedy, and I knew that if we had another child with significant medical needs, it would mean balancing and splitting time between them.  That scared me.  I was also scared of how a positive result would impact our plans for the birth.  After having Kennedy in a birth center, I couldn't imagine a hospital birth or the interventions that would come. 

The MaterniT21 test comes with great controversy.  Some people believe that it will eliminate the population of individuals with Down syndrome.  I don't necessarily believe that.  Even if the test becomes more readily available, there will always be people who recognize the value of life, regardless of how many chromosomes there happen to be.  Personally, I'm glad that I was able to access non-invasive testing, and avoid the stress of the unknown, or jeopardizing my home birth plans. 

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