Pregnancy. For most of us, it’s a crazy time. There’s the happiness coupled with sickness, and the preparation accompanied by the stress.
Some of the anxiety we experience is trivial: What color should I paint the nursery? What college will they go to?
And then there is the worry that comes with the more important question: Is my baby healthy?
Somewhere around the 12th week of pregnancy, your OB/GYN may offer you tests for Down syndrome, the most common birth defect.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition in which a person has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. This causes problems in the way the body and brain develop. The risk increases with a mother’s age – 1 in 1250 for a mom who is 25 years old; 1 in 106 for a mom who is 40.
Traditionally, Down syndrome testing consisted of an ultrasound where they would measure the thickness of the neck folds, looking for built-up fluid that could point to an increased risk.
However, new blood tests can actually analyze fetal DNA circulating in the mom’s system. These tests detect multiple copies of the 21st chromosome – the chromosome usually responsible for causing Down syndrome – and they are 99 percent accurate.
The new test has been controversial since its introduction. Pro-life advocates say that such testing will increase the number of abortions and lead to human selection by man.
As for myself, I wanted to know whether my baby was healthy or not. If she was going to need additional surgeries and care, it was something I wanted to prepare for before she was born, not deal with in the delivery room.
Tell us what you think of the new Down syndrome test. Did you test for Down syndrome?
Check out our Vitals Pregnancy Guide for a complete list of screenings available to pregnant women.