Pro-Life Moms of “Advanced Maternal Age”

I had my prenatal visit the other day and the PA mentioned that at 18 weeks, if I so choose, I could get genetic counseling, a level II ultrasound, and perhaps an amnio to look for birth defects-specifically Down Syndrome. I am now 35, therefore officially of “advanced maternal age” making the chances of having a Down Syndrome child go up substantially. The more advanced my age, the more “up” my chances go, and from what she described, it seems once I hit 40, well, don’t even try reproducing (ha ha, I just made a funny…”try” ha ha).
She said this is just and offer (about 100 x’s), and not necessary (I had the feeling the fact that i was pro-life showed somewhere). I said I would ask my husband and so I did. He said if it makes me feel comfortable, sure but in his estimation we do not need it. It’s our baby, nothing they reveal would stop us from having the baby, end of story. Good answer. In my pregnancy brain, I flip flop back and forth over the dumbest details and I think were I asked this when I wasn’t pregnant, it would be a cut and dry answer, but now I am emotional and I worry, and am indecisive and I need a partner in all this life stuff to tell me what to do until I’m sane again.
13 years ago, when I was 22 years old and pregnant with my Number 2, Posco, my AFP Triple screen came out “funny” (according to the doctor who left a message on my answering machine). So they sent us to genetic counseling, an ultrasound and an amnio. We of course opted to go because the doctor scared the living daylights out of us and gave me the impression that this was simply the next step after a Triple Screen. And I of course *thought* the idea was to give us a head’s up to prepare for a child who might have special needs (I was actually thinking Spinabifida more so than Down’s).
The genetic-screen-counselor person told me I had about the same chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome as a 35-year-old woman (oh, the irony) which was pretty high (according to them).Before I had a 1 in 1 million chance of having a child with Down’s Syndrome, now it was like 1 in 200 (I don’t remember the exact stats, but they were startling). We had the ultra sound, we had the amniocentesis and the doctor who did the procedure said “18 weeks is still early enough along to take care of it if we find out there is bad news today.” I felt stupid and angry and felt that by participating, I unwittingly contributed somehow to the philosophy that children are disposable. I told my mother this story and she rolled her eyes at my melodrama (as par the course) and said her doctor told her these tests were to perhaps fix an anomaly that could be fixed or to prepare parents in advance.
I know the usual pro-life mom tagline is simply to reject these tests, and I don’t think I had a Triple Screen again after that incident with my following 4 children. Like my husband said, I will most likely turn down the tests this time around. But it makes me wonder: preparing ahead if you have a child who needs special attention does not seem anti-life to me. I think if I had a pro-life, NFP only doctor, I might opt for the tests. Do women who are lucky enough to have NFP only docs, who feel confident that abortion is not an ulterior motive accept these tests? Or do these doctors simply not offer these tests? I guess the overall question is what would women’s health care look like if the industry wasn’t so obsessed with birth control and abortion and you had confidence that your doctor was genuinely trying to take care of you and not sterilize you.


  1. It’s funny that I just blogged about this the other day. When I was preggers with Andrew (a little over a year ago)we did take the ultrasound and minimal genetic testing but my obgyn is chrisitan and pro-life so he understood why abortion would never be an option for us. He encouraged us to take the testing so if something were wrong with the baby he’d be prepared to deal with it once the baby was delivered.
    I respect those who refuse any kind of testing and it’s probably less stressful not worrying about results, not to mention the notorious errors. But I don’t think it is the only pro-life option if you are doing it to better the health of your child and use it as a witnessing opportunity for the pro-termination docs and techs out there. Either way, I say pray about it and go where God leads you.

  2. You don’t have to get the triple screen to get the advance warning. When I was pregnant, I asked my GYN if the triple screen would give me any advantages as far as preparation over an ultrasound a few weeks later. She said no, and hinted that the only decision it would be good for was for or against an abortion, so I declined the screen. As she wrote down my decision, she mentioned that she’d made the same decision during her own pregnancy — to skip the screen — for the same reason.

  3. Now see Peony, I never had a doctor that was simply that blunt and honest with me. That is exactly what I would like to know. Why? If it is about abortion, do they think I would change my mind? Actually, the doctor who performed the amnio years ago did say that to me “many people feel one, but when they are confronted with bad news, they change their minds.”
    But between you and me, I think that is one of the problems with abortion-it plays on people’s fears when they are in panic mode.

  4. I think someone did a study indicating that parents don’t bond better with a special-needs baby if they find out prenatally, so that might be something to consider. Maybe there is a benefit to finding out while in the throes of bonding hormones at birth? My midwife mentioned the study (it was recent at the time, I think) while we were discussing the screening tests and whether they had any benefits if abortion was not on the table.

  5. Your commenters have hit on the two-edged sword that is prenatal testing — on the one hand, you can be prepared if your child has a problem (sometimes, but rarely, they can be fixed prenatally; more frequently, immediate care can be in place at the birth if it is so required); but on the other hand, abortion is considered “the way to go” if your baby has a problem.
    I opted to go without testing for both of my pregnancies, and don’t think I’ll have testing for any future pregnancies. To me, the benefits of knowing (or suspecting, since I’ve heard **way** too many cases of incorrect prenatal diagnoses) that something is wrong does not outweigh the risk (of additional perhaps unnecessary worry, of the risk of miscarriage or some other thing, or of the pressure to have an unwanted abortion).
    A woman I know declined all prenatal testing with her 3rd child, and her OB really pressured her on it (because she was over 35). Even after the woman insisted that she wouldn’t have an abortion if there were a problem, and even after she said that she already had two special-needs children and knew exactly what she was getting into if she should have a third, the doctor *still* tried to get her to have the testing!
    While it can be a horrible shock to find out at the birth of the baby that something is wrong (perhaps fatally wrong), and having prenatal testing can prepare you for that shock, I don’t know that being shocked during pregnancy is that much better than being shocked at the birth. The absolute odds of having a baby with defects is fairly low anyway, so I’d rather assume that everything is fine, because it probably is!

  6. I am 42 and pregnant w/ my 2nd child. I am 20 1/2 weeks along. I had the nuchal translucency sono w/ the quad screen testing done – all non-invasive. It’s been repeated twice w/ great results. I would not have done any invasive test either way and now think it’s just best not to know. If you are not going to terminate, why spent the 2nd half of your pregnancy completely freaked out? My ob-gyn referred me – assuming I guess that at my age I would want the tests – and I just blindly ( like a sheep ) went along. I am SO TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT MY ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE. The genetic counselor that I had to meet with before the tests – who btw, was about 16 – (haha) asked me – with all seriousness – Why I was there? I replied, because I’m pregnant and old? She then showed me a flip chart with all manner of horrible things that can happen due to my ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE. Made me feel selfish and greedy for attempting to have a second child. Good luck to you!

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