Down Syndrome and Amniocentesis

When suspected of having a Down syndrome child, should you opt for an amniocentesis?

One of the worst possible news any pregnant woman can receive is that she is at risk of having a baby with Down syndrome.

Your triple test suggests that possibility, your beautiful new life with your unborn child starts falling apart. Your gynae tries to explain to you that it might not be and recommends that you take an amniocentesis for further tests to be sure.

How can this happen? What have I done wrong to deserve this? What's wrong with me? How could I have brought this upon my baby? Is it my husband's fault? You are filled with guilt, sadness and questions.

When all that is settled, you are faced with the ultimate question; do I keep the baby if my baby has Down syndrome? This is a hard decision and one that has to be based on personal convictions of your husband and yourself.

My Story

When I was diagnosed with a 1:120 chance of having a Down syndrome baby from the triple test, I was sure I would keep the baby, my concern was would my mother approve of me keeping my baby. Taking the amniocentesis didn't seem necessary because whatever the outcome I was determined to keep the baby.

With such conviction, I thought I would be able to deal with the news of having a possible Down syndrome baby. However, I kept crying over that possibility and I would often cry uncontrollably. I could not eat and had sleepless nights. I needed to know for sure.

Taking the amniocentesis was the only way to be sure. Although amniocentesis is generally a safe procedure, it has a less than 1% risk of fetal loss. I was afraid because that 1% doesn't seem like such a long shot to me. I was undecided.

My husband finally made the decision for me; he encouraged me to take the test. His reasoning was to have peace of mind. He didn't want to see me behaving this way and to stop second guessing. Taking the test would also allow us to better prepare ourselves for a Down syndrome baby. He even promised to accompany me for the test.

I was very troubled and fearful on the day of the test. Although I have found out all I could about the procedure, I could not be fully prepared for it. Fortunately, the procedure wasn't a long one; it was over in a couple of minutes.

Now the hardest thing anyone can imagine, waiting for the results which would take about 10 days. We prayed a lot, "Lord, please let our baby be normal". Even then my crying was just as much. My husband put up a strong and positive front but he too was troubled.

Ten days seemed like months, fear and anxiety grew with each passing day. Finally, the results arrived. The telephone rang and it was a call from my gynae. Everything stood still and I was hanging on every word my gynae had to say. I wasn't prepared to receive the results, I wasn't sure I want to hear them. There was no stopping it.

And then it came, "Good news..." an anticipation of hope, "everything is fine". An unbelievable relief and joy came over me and I started to cry.

I was fortunate to be spared having a child with Down syndrome, are other mothers as fortunate? I came to learn later that there are many mothers who went through similar experience and most turn out alright. The triple test can bring bad news but it doesn’t mean it is confirmed.

Two Big Questions

1. Do you keep the baby if the results from the amniocentesis test confirm it?

You need to answer this question for yourself with much conviction and prayer. I cannot possibly imagine what it would be like raising one, the difficulties and heart aches you will face. But I do know that children with Down syndrome can be gifted in their own special way.

Have a heart to heart talk with your gynea, arrange to talk with families raising a Down syndrome child or even support organizations before you make a final decision.

2. Should you do an amniocentesis?

If you and your husband are personally convicted that abortion is not an option and you would keep the baby no matter what, good on you, the test wouldn't really be necessary. I would suggest taking the test under the following situations:

  • You will have the baby aborted. Do confirm before proceeding as the blood test is not a confirmation, don’t end up aborting a normal healthy baby.
  • You want peace of mind. You are unable to eat, sleep, cry uncontrollably and filled with anxiety. These are unhealthy for your baby, taking the amniocentesis test could put to rest the uncertainty.

Try to stay positive, I know it is hard, because like me the excessive worrying was unnecessary. Do seek your husband’s support. The situation could very likely work out for the best.