If you are a pregnant woman in the UK, you are always offered a test that “screens for Down’s syndrome” as well as other serious chromosomal abnormalities. Most expectant women understandably accept this. But there are some women who do not. Here, Caroline Farrow, who is expecting her fifth child, explains why.
I am fortunate to have a midwife who is not only a friend and social acquaintance, but also a practicing Christian, rare in this day and age, who has respected my decisions and therefore not attempted to place any pressure on me, unlike her predecessors.
Nonetheless, when asked last week whether or not I would be opting for the screening for Down’s syndrome, protocols still meant that she still had to give me the leaflet to read for the umpteenth time, in order that I could prove that I was ‘well-informed’. Apparently ticking a ‘no’ box on a form is so rare, and deemed so irresponsible and outrageous, that when I present for the scan, I will be asked to confirm once again. No doubt my advanced age of 40, which doubles the chances from 1 in 200 to 1 in 100, will also be mentioned in stern tones.
What people forget is that the Nuchal Fold test, which is standard practice for almost all pregnant woman, cannot give you a definitive diagnosis of whether or not your baby has Down’s syndrome, but instead offers an individual’s statistical probability. Anything lower than a 1 in 150 chance and the midwife will give you an urgent call within two days and offer you a further invasive test such as an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling to confirm the diagnosis. Think about it for a minute. If as an adult you were told that you had a 1 in 150, a 1 in 100 or even a 1 in 50 chance of contracting a genetic disease, likelihood is that you’d fret about it for a while, before realising that the odds were actually in your favour. Chances are, you’d be fine.
Not so if your baby is identified as potentially having Down’s syndrome. Women are then further pressurised into having a test, one which has a one per cent chance of causing a miscarriage, in order that they can know for certain. Unless you are so desperate to know whether or not your baby has Down’s syndrome that you are prepared to risk its life, then the screening programme is a total waste of time and will cause unnecessary panic and stress which also isn’t good for the baby.
I admit that in the past I have unthinkingly co-operated with Dawkins’ eugenic agenda by opting for the screening, in order to put my mind at rest. I’ve been fortunate in that the results have never given me any cause for concern, being around the 1 in 6,000 mark. But this time, I’m not prepared to go there, not because I’m a great hero, but because I don’t want to be worrying for the next seven months about something that I can’t change. Not that Down’s Syndrome should be anything to worry about in any event, despite the NHS’s insistence that the condition merits the baby’s abortion right up until the moment of birth.
Our decision has been reinforced by the loss of a baby last year due to a genetic abnormality, which was diagnosed as being most probably Down’s syndrome. We didn’t care. We just wanted our baby to have the chance of being born and experience being loved. Someone told me that I was very brave and said surely I’d want to be prepared. For what? A baby who might be different or perhaps lesser abled than other children? There’s one of those born every minute.