news item: “Prenatal Testing: It’s Just Information, Not Answers — or a Guarantee”

Prenatal testing. Did you do it?

This week we came across a really interesting article about prenatal testing and the decisions parents make in response to the results they get. It’s written by a woman (Claire McCarthy) who is not only a pediatrician but also a Mom who had a severely disabled child who died at one year of age (they did do genetic testing on him). With that sort of background, I was extremely interested to find out why she chose against doing any genetic testing with her final pregnancy. Click over to her article to read a more thorough explanation of her reasons, but here is the synopsis:

First of all, you can’t test for every single genetic problem…

Second, there are some really wonderful people out there with less-than-perfect genes…

Third — and this is the part that gets left out of the conversation almost entirely — being genetically normal is no guarantee of anything.

She goes on to say:

I don’t mean to sound judgmental of people who choose to end pregnancies when genetic problems are found. These are intensely personal and individual decisions, and decisions that are deeply dependent on circumstances.

When I was pregnant with our first child, we decided against doing any genetic testing, because we were of the mindset that we wouldn’t terminate a pregnancy either way, and with the high rate of false positives, I figured there was no reason to put that chance of extra stress into my life. We plan to do the same (not testing) this time around. However, I have plenty of friends who have chosen the opposite – as the author of this article said, it’s an intensely personal decision.

The focus of Claire’s concern about genetic testing is that she feels not all parents can make calm decisions with clear heads and clear hearts when faced with a potentially devastating diagnosis.

I’d also lived enough of life to understand that control is an illusion. Life, as they say, is what happens while you are busy making plans.

Understanding this, I think, is crucial to being happy parents — and happy people. But I don’t think that most obstetricians are talking about things this way. I don’t think they are putting testing into context for expectant parents, helping them really understand the meaning and limitations of test results.

The pace of genetic research is stunning and exciting. But there is more to life and health than genetics — and when it comes to making decisions about pregnancies, we need to help people understand that.

So what do you think?

*****

Did you choose to do genetic testing while pregnant? Why or why not?

Do you regret your decision?

What do you think of the author’s argument against testing?

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pail_josJosey is a semi-crunchy mom of a toddler who spent her college years studying business and French and traveling whenever possible. She now works at the local medical center and is continually in search of the optimum work/life/party balance as she cruises through her 30s with her family and friends in Colorado. She is more than a little Type-A and researches the hell out of random things that pique her interest. Josey blogs about her family’s travel and outdoor life adventures at My Cheap Version of Therapy.

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