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Saying No To Prenatal Tests

By Sierra Black |


Prenatal testing is a complex choice for pregnant women

Would you parent a child with Down’s Syndrome? This is a decision every pregnant woman is implicitly asked to make around the beginning of her second trimester. That’s when she’ll be offered prenatal screening for chromosomal abnormalities in her fetus.

Motherlode has a thoughtful essay about a mother’s decision to refuse prenatal testing. Her first child was born with Down’s Syndrome, and doctors have pressured her to test for the syndrome in her second and third pregnancies.

She acknowledges that there’s power in information; knowing your child will be born with a serious developmental disorder can help you prepare for the parenting challenges that lie ahead.

But that’s not why we’re offered these tests. Most doctors will recommend that a pregnancy be terminated if the baby is carrying an extra chromosome. Because she would welcome another child with Down’s, she’s chosen to sidestep the testing process and the inevitable pressure to abort.

I hear where she’s coming from. I refused these tests with both of my pregnancies, too.

When I was pregnant with my first child, our midwife suggested I decline the standard roster of prenatal testing: the things that screen for birth defects like spina bifida and Down’s Syndrome.

I was 25, healthy, with no history of these issues in my family or my husband’s. I wasn’t facing the kind of hard decision Motherlode’s guest poster grappled with. But I was signing waivers declining standard parts of prenatal care.

I did it because of a question the midwife asked me. ‘Would you end this pregnancy, if the tests came back positive?”

I knew the answer to that in an instant: no. I was committed to the baby I was carrying. I wasn’t going to terminate my pregnancy. If she was born with a birth defect, we’d deal with it, just like we’ll deal with it if one of the kids becomes sick or injured now. I’d already begun to love her and parent her, no matter who she turned out to be.

What about you? Did you accept the prenatal tests? Do you wish you’d made a different choice?

Photo: pea

More by Sierra Black:

I Flunk Being A Girly Mama

Why I Don’t Miss Homeschooling

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Stepmothers: Do You Really Love Your Husband’s Kids?

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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22 thoughts on “Saying No To Prenatal Tests

  1. JEssica says:

    I said no to the testing because those test comes with increase risk to the developing baby.

  2. Laura says:

    I’ve said no to all of those tests, and I haven’t given it a second thought. I’m staunchly pro-life, and I’m not interested in someone arguing with me to abort. Frankly, I’d probably change doctors if she pressured me that direction.

  3. Jen says:

    But isn’t there in utero surgery to help correct spinal bifida? I agree that for things like Down’s Syndrome that you can’t do anything about that the screening isn’t something I would want, but for things that can be corrected, why not?

  4. Jen Hunter says:

    I was glad to have the tests. We might have terminated if it turned out she had something really severe that would make her life hugely difficult. Down’s we could have handled, but having some warning would have given us a chance to do our homework and mentally prepare before the birth. I’m very grateful that she turned out healthy, though.

  5. susanna eve says:

    I said no to testing when I was over 35 and pregnant with my 5th child, that was 14 years ago. IMO, the risks of losing the pregnancy weren’t worth the info we would gain. Even though I am pro choice and not a christian, I would never have terminated the pregnancy no matter what the results. When I talk to people about prenatal testing, mostly amnio, the question is always whether the pregnant woman would undergo a second trimester termination based on the testing results.

  6. Katy says:

    I declined the NT ultrasound and all the blood tests because I wasn’t going to terminate the pregnancy, have the CVS or Amnio and both of us are young with no family history. The only part that I regret (and only a little, tiny bit) is not having the extra ultrasound for a peek at the little one. But not enough to go through testing.

  7. Em says:

    We’re struggling with this one now. My son is missing part of chromosome 5, and there is a 50% chance that my (hopefully soon) to be conceived child would, too. This deletion can present itself differently in each individual, so we don’t know what, if any, medical problems kid #2 would have. No matter what, we wouldn’t abort the pregnancy, but I’m a big fan of knowing things in advance. My son wasn’t diagnosed until he was 16 months old, and we could have started seeing doctors and therapists sooner if we had just known. So… I don’t know.

  8. goddess says:

    Yup- had amnio with my last pregnancy- and would have aborted if a genetic anomaly would have been detected. I would have fired any OB who wasn’t on board with that.

  9. Sara says:

    Being able to prepare yourself and your family mentally for having a disabled child would be huge. To know that you’ll need more help than most or that your child may have medical issues at birth and won’t be able to come right home or you won’t be able to go back to work. That is important and why I don’t understand why people won’t get tested. If you find out your fetus has abnormalities you can make sure you are delivering in a hospital that can handle the problems and they won’t have to be transferred. To have the right equipment for the child and to fully educate yourself on the abnormality.

  10. jenny tries too hard says:

    I would never have an abortion. Ever. But, I have gone through the incredibly scary ordeal of going to the hospital, having a baby who I expected to be utterly typical, all my friends and family waiting for good news…only to have my baby whisked away and given a diagnosis I’d never even heard of. If I had known beforehand I could’ve been so much better prepared to get my daughter the services she would need, more prepared to go home without my baby, etc.

    Now, of course I can see why this particular mom chose not to have more testing done to detect DS. Even if her second child is born with DS, or some other issue, the family already knows what resources are available and how to access them. When it’s your first experience with a child who has special needs, it’s wildly overwhelming…often babies with special needs need services right away that the parent has no idea how to access. I honestly felt like we were stepping into an entirely different world of parenting, even then. It would’ve been nice to have a map of it.

  11. goddess says:

    I had a child with special needs. It’s BECAUSE of those needs that I would NEVER, EVER willingly volunteer myself- or my family- including Dad, siblings and grandparents for that position again. I can respect anyone’s pro-life stance and determination to persevere in such circumstances, but please, never belittle someone who visited those trenches, and says, “Um, no- no thanks”. We do so from a position of experience and self- awareness of exactly what we do or do not have the resources to undergo again.

  12. jenny tries too hard says:

    @goddess…did you feel belittled by a comment here?

  13. Linda says:

    I disagree that the primary purpose of prenatal testing is to pressure a woman to abort it there’s an issue. I’m honestly not sure where that comes from, except maybe in the writer’s imagination. I had some testing done (the noninvasive kind) but I did decline amnio for a pregnancy at age 40. Our thought were that we’d like to be prepared should something to detected, not that’s we’d abort.

  14. Linda says:

    goddess, are you comfortable sharing the story of your child’s life? I’m often confused by the things you post which contain snippets which I then try to piece togther, but can’t.

  15. goddess says:

    Sure Linda- I’ve always been very open about our son, Nicholas. What can I answer to clear things up for you?

  16. goddess says:

    Jenny, in the greater framework of the topic of aborting for prenatal anomalies, yes I have felt belittled, but in specific to this particular discussion, no. Everyone seems to be discussing it pretty respectfully :-)
    I’m sorry if my comment seemed to be a response to yours, being that it followed it. Usually, if I am responding to a particular poster, I will address them by name.

  17. Marj says:

    I respect the decision either way. However, it was really hard for me to get pregnant and the risk for miscarriage as a result of the testing is double when you have twins. I wasn’t willing to risk them, and wouldn’t have aborted anyway. So I skipped the testing.

  18. jennifer says:

    The test may vary state to state, but I *think* the one being referred to here is a simple blood test that is done during week 10-13. Based on the results of that test, you could opt to do an amnio, or wait until the 20-week ultrasound to get more information if potential abnormalities show up in the blood work. I am saddened to hear that some feel or have directly experienced pressure to abort as a result of this test. Of course, the follow up I referred to (amnio, u/s) should be done to confirm the results of the blood test, as there are inevitably false positives. I always thought the test was offered just to give more information to the family, and outline what their options were, but hard to imagine a doctor pressuring a woman to choose abortion for a condition that is not life threatening to the mother or if the baby would have an extremely low chance of survival (I have heard abortion being “pushed” in those cases, but not for Down’s, etc.). Totally echo Sara’s comments above as to why you might want to know what is going on in there, even if you would never in a million years decide to abort.

  19. Linda says:

    goddess, I’ve seen you mention that your son died (vaccine related) and that he had some sort of special needs. I’m sorry for your loss. I wondered what the whole story was, aside from the one sentence.

  20. Mari says:

    I declined.

    One of my best friends had the tests done and it came back with a 50% “chance” for Downs… the doctors then suggested she get a second test where they put a needle into the uterus to be 100% sure, and/or gave her the option to terminate the pregnancy

    She declined further testing, because the baby either had or hadnt Downs, but she was sure she would not have an abortion.

    Her daughter is now 5, and is perfectly healthy…. so after that experience, I declined because a “chance” to have or not have something isnt worth the risk and the stress for me

  21. Sheri says:

    I can’t recall my OB even giving me the option of testing when I was pregnant with my first child in 1989….By the time I was pregnant with my second and third, my ob pushed these tests, but I refused, partially because of the chance of miscarrying….Since I wouldn’t have terminated even if there was something amiss, why bother??

  22. Geneva says:

    I chose not to have the testing with both my pregnancies out of fear. I didn’t want to know if there would be any issues with my children. I didn’t want to think of that possibility. I am not against other people making the choice for abortion, but for me I know abortion is something I could never go through with. (I am pro-choice.) Even if my child was born with severe disabilities I would love them and try my best to care for them because the thought of killing a living being feels like I am killing a little piece of myself. I had more reason to fear birth defects because mental retardation runs in my dad’s side of the family. My dad has six (yes that is 6) mentally challenged siblings. Genetic testing was never done on his family to figure out the exact cause, but it seems to be some sort of genetic issue considering I also have a cousin who is mentally handicapped too. We know it isn’t Down’s Syndrome, but beyond that we have no idea of the genetic issue. Testing during my pregnancy was highly recommended, however I was just too scared. I just hoped for the best and was lucky to have two wonderfully healthy boys. I also just didn’t want to be depressed and worried during the last bit of my pregnancy if I had the test done and it told me that my child could have a defect. Emotionally I couldn’t handle it even though I knew I could never abort it. I do believe for some women it might be best for them to get this testing done so that they can abort the child if necessary. But this is just something I couldn’t face. It was easier to bury my head in the sand and hope for the best. At least my prayers were answered with my wonderful and healthy babies.

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