ultrasound, nuchal translucency test, 12-week ultrasound, screening for Down syndrome

As you’re approaching the end of the first trimester, you’re probably feeling better and already looking forward to meeting the new member of your family. The opportunity to see your baby for the first time usually comes at 11-13 weeks in the form of an ultrasound screening test called nuchal translucency (NT), which is used to assess your baby’s risk of Down syndrome and some other genetic abnormalities. You’d also have a blood test at the same time and the chance of your baby having Down syndrome is calculated based on these two tests and your age.

The test outcome is not a conclusive diagnosis. It can’t tell you for sure if your baby will have a Down syndrome or not, it can only give you the probability of it happening. If you want to have a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, you’ll have to have further testing which comes with a risk of miscarriage (although a non-invasive testing has recently become available at extra cost).

Before you decide to have the test, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re doing it and how you’d react to various possible results. Will you proceed with all the necessary tests and then terminate the pregnancy if your baby is found to have Down syndrome? Would you take the risk of miscarrying a perfectly healthy baby just to find out for sure? Or will you keep your baby no matter what? And would possible high probability score make you stress for the rest of the pregnancy?

All these questions were weighing heavy on my mind the first time I was about to have the scan. By the end of the first trimester I felt already madly in love with my baby and I couldn’t even contemplate an abortion, regardless of what test results said. Besides, even if the results came back , for example, as 1 in 4 probability, which is extremely high, I was still 3 times more likely to have a healthy baby than not and further tests were going to put that baby at risk (non-invasive testing wasn’t available back then). That’s why I was hesitant to have the NT scan in the first place. Of course, it would be nice to end up in the low risk category and gain peace of mind. But what if I didn’t?

Statistics show that only 5% of the women who take the test fall into the high risk group. And of those with high risk, 96% will have healthy babies. Yet the doubt will be there nagging at me. What if? There was also the possibility of family pressure to consider. I wasn’t sure how my family and friends would react in the event of a high probability and I had a suspicion that they might not be as supportive as I’d like (maybe, I was wrong).

I ended up pulling out at the last moment, even though I had the scan already booked. I declined it with my next two babies, too. By that time I’d done all the thinking already and it was a no-brainer. I just went on with my job of growing healthy human beings.

Whether you choose to have the scan or not, don’t do it just because it’s there and everyone else is doing it. Talk to your doctor, weigh up your pros and cons carefully, and get counselling if you need it.

Image by PublicDomainPictures via pixabay.com

By Tatiana Apostolova