Making decisions about antenatal screening and testing

Early on in your pregnancy you have a lot of routine blood tests to determine your blood group and haemoglobin levels and to test for certain infections. You're also offered two screening tests — a blood test and an ultrasound examination — to check for chromosomal abnormalities in the foetus such as Down syndrome (for more on different types of chromosomal abnormalities, refer to Chapter 16). You don't have to take these tests, and some couples choose not to. If you're unsure about taking the tests because you're worried about the results, talk to your doctor.

Screening tests give you an estimate of the risk of your baby having a chromosomal abnormality but the results aren't definitive. If both tests are normal, the risk is minimal, but if at least one test isn't normal, you'll be offered diagnostic testing — either chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis — whereby cells from the foetus are tested. Whereas screening tests give you a 'probably' result, diagnostic testing gives you a definite 'yes' or 'no' result.

Screening tests aren't always conclusive and your doctor may recommend that you undergo diagnostic testing based on your screening test results. The thought that something may be wrong with your baby is likely to cause you a lot of worry and the seven to ten days it takes to get a definite answer from diagnostic testing can be an excruciating wait.

If the results of diagnostic testing confirm that your baby does have a chromosomal abnormality, your doctor will advise you on your options. There are varying degrees of abnormality, and your doctor and a counsellor will provide you with all the available information about the nature and consequences of the abnormality to help you make a decision that's right for you and your baby.

In Australia, approximately one in five women who conceive with IVF undergoes diagnostic testing, compared to fewer than one in ten among pregnant women in general. One explanation for this is that women who conceive with the help of IVF are usually older and so are at higher risk of having babies with chromosomal abnormalities.

Pregnancy Diet Plan

Pregnancy Diet Plan

The first trimester is very important for the mother and the baby. For most women it is common to find out about their pregnancy after they have missed their menstrual cycle. Since, not all women note their menstrual cycle and dates of intercourse, it may cause slight confusion about the exact date of conception. That is why most women find out that they are pregnant only after one month of pregnancy.

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