What if your baby had a life-altering disorder? Would you want to know before he was born?
Some doctors and midwives offer genetic screening, a series of tests done on your blood (not the baby's) to determine if your baby might be at risk for certain genetic conditions. Genetic screening can also include an ultrasound to look for genetic abnormalities.
Common conditions screened for include Down Syndrome, Trisomy 18, and neural tube defects, among others.
You Can't Be Sure
Genetic screening during pregnancy cannot tell you if your baby will or will not have a certain condition; It can only tell you if your baby might be at risk.
If the tests show that your baby is at a higher risk of these conditions, you will be referred to a genetic specialist, with the option to undergo more extensive, diagnostic testing. Diagnostic tests include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling.
These extra tests can be more accurate (about 99%), but they still come with a margin of error. Diagnostic tests are also much more invasive and carry more risks, since cells from the baby must be sampled.
Who benefits most from genetic testing?
Certain individuals have a greater chance of conceiving a child with a genetic condition. Your chances are increased if you are over 35, you, the father, or someone in either of your families has a genetic condition.
Other reasons you may choose genetic testing:
You've previously had a child with a severe birth defect
You have had two or more miscarriages
You have a medically ill child with a genetic condition
Ask yourself, would the results of these tests change the way we approach this pregnancy? Would we consider terminating the pregnancy if the baby has a genetic disorder?
If the results would not change anything for you, it's okay to op-out of all genetic screening and diagnostic tests. These tests are not required for a healthy pregnancy.
Your doctor or midwife may not offer these kinds of screening or diagnostic tests, but will instead refer you to a specialist if needed. Some professionals don't wish to be involved in counseling pregnant women for or against an abortion.