‘When I decided not to screen my baby for Down’s syndrome, I didn’t expect my friends’ reactions’

In my opinion, everything depended on the result of my 12-week scan. The main purpose of your first routine NHS scan isn’t really to get pictures for your Instagram “announcement” but rather to get an accurate due date, monitor the baby’s growth and – if you wish – check for chromosomal abnormalities, namely Downs and the rarer Edward and Patau syndromes.

If you agree to the screening, the fluid in the baby’s neck will be measured (nuchal translucency) and it can also be checked for the presence of a nasal bone and measured the length of the femur. A large amount of throat fluid can be a sign of heart problems — common in babies with Down syndrome — and no nasal bone and a short femur are also “soft markers” of the condition.

Then a blood sample is taken and combined with your age, all the data is fed into an algorithm and you get a probability. By post. Which can take 14 days. Personally, I couldn’t imagine anything more nerve-wracking. Add to that the odds go up to one in 150 at my age compared to one in 1,250 for a 25 year old and it was too overwhelming. The results are also not diagnostic. If you don’t pay for an expensive private test or have an invasive amniotic fluid test, you’re only getting chances.

If it didn’t come back one in a million, that wouldn’t reassure me at all. I would worry about an unknown outcome until I had my baby in my arms. And what if the odds came back very high? What decision would I have to make?

The more anxious I got, the more I wished I didn’t have to know. Then I realized I wasn’t actually doing it. It was the expectation of others that made me feel like I did it.

Once I made the decision, I felt better and lighter. I talked with my husband for a long time and we decided that we would be happy with everything that happened. I felt blessed to be pregnant. I come from a family of very strong women, so whatever happened, I knew I could handle it. Maybe that was a bit naïve – and I don’t mean to downplay the challenges of raising a disabled child – but my husband and I thought that surely loving a child to the core can conquer everything?

After making such a deeply personal decision, I was appalled at other people’s reactions. As if just because you can find things out in modern medicine, you have to. Like choosing not to do it makes you “backward” in a way.

My 84-year-old grandma said to me, “What would you have done if you found out something was wrong?” She was the only person brave enough to ask me directly. And the answer is, I honestly don’t know. But if I skip the screening, I don’t need to know. I am happy, excited and anxious, but ultimately confident that no matter what, when this baby arrives, she will be cherished and protected. ‘When I decided not to screen my baby for Down’s syndrome, I didn’t expect my friends’ reactions’

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