Why I Said No To Prenatal Testing

Why I Said No To Prenatal Testing

I read a story today about a woman whose child’s photo was used in an offensive corporate campaign. Christie’s beautiful daughter has Down’s syndrome, and she had a gorgeous photo of her on her blog. A cheapo Turkish stock photo site lifted the picture illegally, from where it was then used by a large Spanish company selling prenatal testing kits. “Tranquility,” the poster promises to those who buy their wares, as if a little girl with Down’s syndrome were a cautionary tale. (Read the article, and let it rouse your angry mama bear, too.)

It took me back to the sterile room I sat in nearly four years ago, clutching at the gaping edges of the medical gown draped across my growing belly. My final pregnancy was different to the first two: I was officially a “geriatric pregnancy”, or AMA (of Advanced Maternal Age), as they politely noted in my file. In other words, I would be 35 by the time of delivery. Out came the kid gloves and the red carpet treatment: we elderly mamas are delicate, you know.

I listened carefully to what the doctor said, trying to stifle my inner snort as I wondered what kind of treatment Sarah, a first time mom at age 80, would have received. What was different, the doctor explained, was that because of the increased risk of complications  due to my advanced maternal age, I was eligible for a whole battery of prenatal tests. Insurance would pay for it all: elaborately subsidized peace of mind was mine for the taking.

“No, thank you,” I said.

The doctor held my gaze. “You do know the risks are significantly higher for a woman of your age?” she queried.

“Yes, I do,” I confirmed.

“And having the tests could give you early information so you could be fully prepared,” she followed up, pushing now.

“Yes,” I snapped, “but no matter what you tell me from those tests, I will keep this baby. And if there is something of concern, the 20 week ultrasound usually picks those markers up, don’t they? So I don’t see the point of undergoing extra tests, which could even be invasive and increase the risks for my baby, when I’m going to keep it anyway.”

She stepped back. I could see the words on her face: Oh, you’re one of THOSE.

Yes, I’m one of those. One of those who feels that prenatal testing gives parents a choice they shouldn’t have to make: of whether to kill the life inside them, or “live and let live.” One of those who has read about the heightened rates of false positives on those early tests – meaning they sometimes flag problems when in fact there are none. For some, this means invasive extra testing, for others this means an early choice to terminate the pregnancy: for everyone, this means significant stress and heartache.

I’m one of those who believes in modern medicine and vaccinates my kids on schedule. I take my physician’s advice on a great many things. When we have questions, we call the advice nurse. But when it comes to prenatal testing, I draw a line.

If I’m committed to keeping the baby, honestly, I just don’t see the point. And Genoma, with its horrible and offensive ad campaign, promising that its test can keep you “tranquil” so you don’t land up with a baby with Down’s syndrome, don’t deserve a dime of that lavish health-insurance-approved spending.

I know what the word above that darling girl’s face should have read: JOY. And the more special needs kids I meet, the more I know this is true. Heaven forbid we rob the world of beauties such as these.

 

Photo credit: Carol Lara (Flickr Creative Commons)/edited by Bronwyn Lea