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The problem with ante-natal screening

Posted in Screening, Statistics by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on August 29, 2008

When I first started writing this blog I was pretty negative about screening for Down’s syndrome, arguing that not enough thought was put into why the tests are carried out and how parents are supported in dealing with the process and the results.

My reaction was based on the negative experience I had had during the screening process. It wasn’t the result that was the problem, or the medical services we were provided with (in fact they were very good), it was the experience of taking the tests and weighing up the statistics and trying to decide how to respond to the results.

This article in the Victorville Daily Press (it’s in California, apparently) reminded me of how hard the process can be – even when the result is “good news”. It also goes to show how ridiculous it is to rely on statistics for some sign of an answer.

The author’s blood test indicated there was greater than one in 10 chance her baby had Down’s syndrome. Our combined nuchal fold and blood tests showed a chance of one in 76. Her baby does not have Down’s syndrome. Ours does.

The other issue is what to do with that information while you wait for more definitive results. “My doctor had warned me that I should consider what I would do with the information,” she writes.

Preparing mentally for a baby with Down’s syndrome is one answer, but I would argue that is it impossible to do so until you know for sure that is the reality.

“I couldn’t help thinking about how stressful the past few weeks had been. It all seemed unnecessary,” the author adds, explaing her reaction to the news that her blood test had been a false positive.”I decided that, if I get pregnant again, I might get amniocentesis to find out for sure. But I’ll never do a screening test again.”

I can understand why.

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  1. […] August I noted the negative reaction of one mother to the ante-natal screening process, even though it eventually […]

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