Monday, January 26, 2009

Testing 1,2,3 . . .

I had just given birth to my daughter; they laid her on my belly but in the second before I could even put my hands on her she was gone. I looked to my husband asking "Is she cute, where is she?"
"The doctors have her," was my husband's confused response.
"Is she cute?" I asked again. (When my first child was born all Dennis could say through his tears was, "He's so cute" so I thought he would be responding the same way.)
But he just had a weird look on his face that I will never forget and sort of nodded.
Then the doctors took my sweet baby girl out of the room, "she's not breathing quite right" they said.
A few minutes later the doctor was on the edge of my bed, he had that look you just don't want a doctor to have on their face.
"We are pretty sure your daughter has Down Syndrome, she's not breathing the right way and may have a heart defect. You didn't know?"
We were shocked. How could this have possibly happened? All of our tests and ultrasounds had been normal. We had no indication that something could be wrong with our baby.

Our story is rare. Only 30% of Triple Screen Testing misses the indication of a baby with Down Syndrome. Another statistic I found said that 98% of normal results are correct! False positives are way more common, with statistics being reported that out of 1000 Triple Screens, 100 come back with a positive result and of those 100 only 3 end up being true positives. Such was the case with a girlfriend of mine who recently had a false positive on her triple screen test, including markers on her subsequent ultra sound. It wasn't until her and her husband opted for the final tell of an amniocentesis that they found out the test had been a false positive and have since been enjoying a perfectly healthy and normal pregnancy.

The question is should you even bother with these tests when there are so many false positives and the few false negatives?

There are several opinions. A midwife I interviewed felt very strongly about not having these tests done. She felt they put undue stress on the mother and thus the baby if the test was a false positive, as in the case of my friend. But what about if you are a worrier and the test can put your mind at ease, not to mention if there was a true positive that could help you prepare?

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. I think it is very personal and the important thing is to study out your options and make a decision that feels best for you and your companion. Each pregnancy, each test, each choice will be unique and dependant on your circumstance. So study and pray (if you do that sort of thing) and make a choice that you feel good about.

Here are some sites that might be helpful as you make your decision:

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