Why You Shouldn’t Get Prenatal Testing?

17 comments

Let me be clear from the beginning here. I’m not saying there are no good reasons to get prenatal testing. But there are some reasons that are not good reasons to do so.

No matter how sophisticated it may be, no prenatal test can predict the impact that your child’s life will have on the world.

The doctors and scientific tests can tell you some facts – which are often helpful. But the human experience is not summed up by statistics and calculations. And our worth is not determined by our quantitative abilities or by whether we meet some arbitrary standard of those who happen to be walking about.

Worse yet is a movement to snuff out birth “defects” – not by stopping the defects, but by stopping the birth. This reveals the common and tragic misunderstanding of what makes a life worth living.

There is a mystery and beauty to every life – as imperfect as we all are. There is an adventure that unfolds when we let life happen. It may be short or long. It’s always challenging, but always a gift. And we must resist the urge to try to completely control it. The fact that you can’t predict life’s wonders and surprises is one of the things that makes it so worth living.

So if you find that you need to do prenatal testing, do so for the right reasons. Aside from things like amniocentesis being very dangerous (1 in 100-250 chance your baby dies as a result of it) and the fact that none of it is 100% accurate, we are starting to walk a fine line between being smart…and spoiling the surprise of a beautiful adventure.

17 comments Add comment

Ricky Jones June 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Great post Matt! We’re having our first child in a couple of months and it’s funny how the doctors look at you like your crazy when you turn down the test.

Christopher June 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Ricky, my wife and I experienced some similar looks when we started going in for our prenatal check-ups and said, “No,” to the test.

Marianne June 26, 2012 at 7:05 pm

My youngest is 17yo…I received the same surprise/”disapproval” all those years ago! I’m sure it’s worse now. :(

Kevin June 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm

This is a really great point. You can’t live your life out of fear of medical tests. Medical science these days is great, but it can tell you things that you just shouldn’t have to process and deal with. There’s great wisdom in Jesus’s discourse on the birds and the flowers being provided for by God!

Jasmine June 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm

My younger sister was born with 22q 11.2 Deletion syndrome, many people unfortunately would rather abort a child they knew to have defects without thinking of the life that child could have lived. I’m glad there were no tests then to determine what birth ‘defects’ my sister would be born with, she is a wonderful, talented, and intelligent individual. She brings light into the lives all those she meets, and despite her circumstances she is the happiest person I know despite any difficulty or prejudice she has faced thus far. The only valid reason I can see behind such tests are to find out in advance if your child we be born with an ‘ailment’, etc. As a method of preparation for caring for your child not a method of getting rid of a ‘problem’. The quality of life shouldn’t be defined by imperfections and limitations, but by love and happiness. You should love your child no matter what, if you can’t do that, don’t become a parent.

Chasity June 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm

We had a surprise with our 4th baby, one that we would wish hadn’t happened. He was born with a genetic condition that affects every system in his body. To sum it up, he can’t hear, see, eat, or breathe (he’s got a trach and vent for that). But this little saint has showed us God’s face in a way we have never before seen. His life is valuable, despite the fact he will never be a “productive” member of society. He is worth much more than the wages he won’t earn, he and babies like him, show us the riches of heaven.

Robert September 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm

You (plural) are in my prayers. I wish my prayers could give back — even in part — the witness that your family is showing. You are truly acting and loving in God’s image.

Anjanette Ciccoianni June 26, 2012 at 11:45 pm

It was nice to read this blog. My husband and I were blessed with our second child 4 months ago. It was a challenging pregnancy and it didn’t help that my first OB pushed us to have the prenatal testing due to my age. She kept telling us it ‘s a good test to take to check for any birth defects and that way we have the option to terminate the pregnancy. She kept mentioning this to us even after we clearly stated that abortion would NEVER be an option. We had had it with this OB and completely changed medical groups to a Catholic hospital and found a really good OB who included God in the care for our baby girl. I never understood how an OB doc could help deliver life into this world (participating in a beautiful miracle) then turn around and say you have the option to “terminate the pregnancy.”

Jasmine June 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I agree, what happened to the Hippocratic Oath? Killing an innocent is never good, can never heal anyone, it only does harm.

Kelly Tolman July 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Matt,
I came across your blog for the first time today and your most recent post really sparked my interest. I am currently 30 weeks pregnant with my third child and had prenatal testing done with this pregnancy. The results showed us she was running a very high risk for Down Syndrome, further ultrasounds showed some physical issues that may or may not correct themselves before she is born. We decided to not do any invasive tests because of the risk of miscarriage– such as an amnio.

Anyway – point is – I really applaud your words that “no prenatal test can predict the impact that your child’s life will have on the world.” And the rest of your powerful sentiments, all of which rang close to my heart because of my current situation. We couldn’t be more excited to meet our little girl and discover the plan that God has for her life.

I feel that maybe there is more to be said about prenatal testing, that it isn’t the tests that cause unnecessary abortions or our tendency to create an arbitrary measure of what a “worthwhile” life would or wouldn’t be; it is society’s reactions to the test’s results.

Science can go too far but preliminary prenatal testing isn’t the bad guy, rather, it’s the abortion counseling that follows or the push to continue on with more invasive tests. After my testing I felt lost and really unsupported by my doctors. There was an underlying “uh-oh, this kid is damaged…” The excitement for a new life seemed to disappear. Sure, I was scared for her health, but I never stopped being excited to meet her or lose faith that she was going to be born exactly the way she was meant to be.

However, because of the testing we are now armed with knowledge – we have researched doctors, support groups, things to be prepared for, etc. The test gave us a reality check and then a chance to be ready.

Anyways thanks for a great read and blog – I look forward to following.

Kelly

Matthew Warner July 5, 2012 at 10:25 am

Kelly – thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story.

I totally agree that the test itself is not the problem (unless it is unnecessarily risking the baby’s life…which so often happens). But some testing is completely harmless (aside from the extra costs, etc.) and can be very helpful in providing helpful knowledge ahead of time.

I think this early knowledge is clearly helpful when it means being able to take immediate steps (pre-birth) to help the health of the baby. I’m not entirely clear how helpful it is for the parents to just “know” ahead of time, though, when it concerns other kinds of special needs.

I think everyone’s situation is different, so I can’t speak for your situation at all and wouldn’t try to. But I think a lot of people think the best way to handle an arriving baby with special needs is to have braced oneself, or mentally or emotionally “prepared.” That part I’m not sure is always the best way to go about it. Nobody likes bad-news-kinds of surprises, so I think people assume it is best to know ahead of time so they can be “prepared.” But I’m not sure it really prepares you. And in some ways, it unfairly prepares people…by making them feel prepared, because they have some facts about their baby…but all without having even met the baby yet. I think many times we need to get it all at once and give the child the chance to introduce themselves before we analyze their “conditions” too much. Makes it much more personal and I think relationships generally work better that way. That’s all.

Obviously, it’s a challenge sometimes because – as I mentioned already – it’s smart and helpful to be aware of physical health problems ahead of time as sometimes it means pre-birth treatments that can help or being better prepared for immediate treatment upon birth. All of that is good. So I hope I’m being clear enough on what I mean.

I guess what I’m saying comes from my wife’s and my own experience. She’s written more about it here if you’re interested and much better than I. But we found out our daughter had Down syndrome on the day she was born. And after much reflection are glad we didn’t know ahead of time. That’s all. Just our own individual and unique story. Everyone has different circumstances and I thank you for sharing yours! We’ll be praying for your growing family!

Kelly Tolman July 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Matt,

Thank you for a link to your wife’s blog, both her and your perspective has been a blessing to both me and my husband. I suppose in the end it has to do with preference. I have always been pro-life and therefore finding out has been more about the logistics of her care than anything else. In the end these tests seem to have more negative consequences with their results than positive – Again I applaud you and your wife’s words and will be praying for your family as well!

Cathy July 8, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Thanks Matt,

I was fortunate enoughto have a baby at 42 year old. On one of my pre-natal visits the doctor asked me if I had scheduled my Amnio. yet. I told him that I suppose I should for “peace of mind” but I would not be using the test as a screening tool to determine if I should abort the child. The doctor turned and said, The test is not worth the risk for “peace of mind” and since you would not abort based on the results I recommend that you not get the test. (my doctor was one of 8 children). MY daughter was born perfectly healthy.
A close friend of mine was harassed by her doctor for not having the test because she was 40, even though she told the doctor she would never abort the child. She didn’t have the test but the doctors were angry with her. Maybe they just wanted the income for performing the proceedure. She gave birth to a healthy girl.
Sadly I have another friend who did have the test (because she was a high risk 42 years old) and was using the test to determine if she would abort. I don’t know if the Amnio, cause it but she mis-carried the baby about a week later (infection in the womb). The baby died but there appeared to be nothing wrong with the baby other than the infection killed him.

Raph July 12, 2012 at 4:56 am

Hey Matt,

I’m a relatively new subscriber to your blog (it’s awesome btw) and I came across one of your articles ‘A Catholic Response to the sex scandal’ It must have been written just after the John Jay report came out. Anyway, you provide a link under the words ‘please read this document here’, the link goes to the website of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious rights and is supposed to give an analysis of the stats collected on the scandal.

However, the page is no longer in existence and I was wondering if you happened to save your own copy of the analysis? If you did could you email me a copy?

Raph

Matthew Warner July 12, 2012 at 9:02 am

Hey Raph – thanks for the catch! I’ve updated the link in the post now so it should work for you. Sorry about that.

Leticia Velasquez July 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm

The reason I refused prenatal screening for Down syndrome even though I was older and high risk, is because doctors put tremendous pressure to abort on women whose test come out with a high probability of Downs. Sometimes they are given the appointment for the abortion without any counseling. This is a tragic neglect of a woman’s right to informed consent and a disrespect to her power to reason and follow her conscience.
Thank heavens, Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick just signed a law which requires that after the Down syndrome diagnosis is given, that women are given up to date resources including the phone number for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress’ First Call Program. I took their training her in CT and it is excellent. In First Call, parents of children with Down syndrome are available to counsel a mom facing a prenatal diagnosis, and welcome them into the Ds community. This may make a big difference in abortion rates as new screening tests like MaterniT21 give an early (12 weeks) 99% accurate result using only the mother’s blood.
Nations like Denmark with nationalized health care and universal screening predict that in this manner, they will eliminate ALL babies with Down syndrome before birth, and save the cost of raising such children . In Europe there are efforts to secure a ‘right’ to eugenic abortion. Things are getting very frightening for our precious children with designer genes.

Maryellen Schroeder July 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I am a physician and a mother of four and I can certainly attest that prenatal testing is almost never necessary. Especially the “quadscreen” and other first trimester tests, which don’t do anything but generate more spending and cause grief and worry. I teach residents and when they take care of prenatal women, they order the tests routinely without a thought. The poor women get the tests because they think the tests are THERAPEUTIC and will help their baby somehow, but they are nothing of the sort. The only purpose is eugenics.

Prenatal ultrasounds are also misused and over-ordered, although sometimes they may detect a correctible condition, so I don’t object to them as much–just not the usual two or three or more for each pregnancy!!!

With four of my five pregnancies I was considered at risk because of being over age 35. As a medical professional, I was able to stick up for myself. During the sonogram for my now 16 year old son, (who is brilliant and published, by the way), I was labeled “risk for Down’s” and at his sonogram no fewer than FOUR technicians came in to ask “Are you SURE you don’t want an amniocentesis?” Being invasive and potentially miscarriage-causing, no, I did not and told them so…again and again and again. If I had been someone who did not know as much as I did and been a usual frightened woman, I am sure I could have easily been bullied into having the test.

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