Saying NO to Prenatal Testing
Prenatal genetic testing is your decision. There are many complex reasons why prenatal genetic testing is offered to women and their partners. What matters is what you and your partner think.
Some Reasons Why You Might Not Want Testing
You are already pregnant and feel strongly that you would not consider ending the pregnancy.
If you do not want to be in a position of considering ending a pregnancy, it might be best not to start down that path. Keep in mind this doesn’t say anything about your support of other women’s choices.
Some genetic tests have unclear results.
Many, perhaps most, genetic tests will have a clear meaning in terms of chances for the child to have a birth defect. However, even some of these clear findings might give rise to anxiety and questions about more testing for the baby, the parents, or other family members.
You worry more about risks from testing than about the chances for a birth defect.
Many genetic tests during pregnancy are blood tests, which pose no serious risk to the mother or baby. However, some results from blood tests might mean a woman is asked to consider amniocentesis or CVS, both of which have a small chance for pregnancy loss.
What You Should Know if You Decide Against Testing
Some reasons for testing don’t involve ending a pregnancy.
Some women and their partners decide to have prenatal genetic testing because they might want to prepare in case the baby has special needs. Many resources exist for parents, such as advocacy groups, medical specialists, and online education. Learning about a condition and adjusting to the news might be helpful before a baby arrives with around-the-clock need for care.
Secondly, if a couple has a known inherited condition in their families and is not yet pregnant, some might consider adoption. Others may choose to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF) and testing embryos for the condition. Our blog post on preimplantation genetic testing explains more.
Every pregnancy has at least about a 3-5% chance of birth defects.
Factors like lifestyle, health, age, and family history can increase that risk, but no one can remove the risk completely. This risk includes problems from severe intellectual impairment (sometimes called mental retardation) to minor physical problems that will get better or can be corrected. Some people think that birth defects only happen to women who don’t take care of themselves or take drugs or medications during pregnancy. That is definitely not true.
If you want a more personalized assessment of your chances, you can use one of Mainstream Genomics’ DNA Navigators to create a Personalized Screening Plan.
Ultrasound is a medical test.
Expectant parents are often very excited to see the baby on ultrasound and find out the gender. Keep in mind, that while those are fun experiences, ultrasound is done for medical reasons. That means that sometimes ultrasound finds things that create worry. In particular, second-trimester ultrasound is a screen for physical birth defects. Although it cannot find all physical problems, it finds some. Be prepared for the low—but real—chance that ultrasound could find something.
A Word About Peace of Mind
Finally, some women pursue prenatal testing because they want peace of mind that the baby is healthy. Remember that prenatal testing cannot guarantee a healthy baby. Also, although the odds are usually very good that the test results will not find a problem, there is a chance a birth defect will be found that the woman and her partner will have to address. However, some women become very anxious about the baby’s health and continue to worry even after the question of testing is settled. Many of those women finally decide they have to proceed with testing or continue to worry for the rest of the pregnancy.
The vast majority of prenatal care providers want their patients to do what is right for them. If you decide against testing, be prepared to confidently and clearly explain why. The descriptions above may be very helpful in that conversation.
If you want help personalizing your decision or talking through your reasons for and against testing, consider one of our DNA Navigators. It comes with a review by a licensed genetic counselor. During our Early Access Program, we are offering a free conversation with a genetic counselor by phone.