A mother has revealed how she was shocked at her friends’ “incredulous” reactions when she explained she would not be screening her unborn child for disabilities such as Down’s syndrome.
Hayley Coyle became pregnant for the first time at 38 years old earlier this year, and was worried that as an older mum there was a higher likelihood of her child having a developmental issue.
She felt she would be unable to relax until after the 12-week scan, at which the baby’s growth and development is monitored. Around this time parents are also offered a screening for the chromosomal conditions Down’s syndrome, Edward’s syndrome and Patau’s syndrome.
The test involves the on-screen measurement of fluid at the back of the baby’s neck, and a blood sample from the mother. The data extrapolated from these samples are combined with the mother’s age to determine the probability of a chromosomal condition being present.
Mothers approaching 40 are estimated to be over eight times more likely to have babies with such a condition than those in their mid-twenties, but the ‘results’ are simply the odds of a condition being present, rather than a confirmed diagnosis.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Coyle said: “Unless it came back one in a million, this was not going to put my mind at rest at all. I’d be worried about an unknown outcome until the moment I had my baby in my arms. And what if the chances came back very high? What kind of decision would I have to make?
“The more anxious I became, the more I wished I didn’t need to know. Then it occurred to me that actually, I didn’t. It was the expectation of others that made me feel like I did.”
Coyle continued: “As soon as I made the decision I felt better and lighter. I spoke to my husband at length and we decided we would be happy with whatever happened. I felt blessed to be pregnant.”
She realises that bringing up a disabled child brings with it challenges, but felt that “surely loving a child to bits can conquer all”.
But when she told her friends about the “deeply personal decision” to reject the test, she was “horrified” by their reactions, with one asking: “But don’t you want to be prepared? How can you go nine months just not knowing? I’d have to know.”
you could “pretend you’d had a miscarriage”
Another claimed it is ‘cruel’ to bring a child with a chromosomal abnormality into the world. They even said the best thing about finding out early if your child had any kind of abnormality is that you could “pretend you’d had a miscarriage”.
‘Cherished and protected’
Coyle commented that some of her friends seemed to be “incredulous” at her decision: “As if, just because modern medicine means you can find things out, you simply must. As if deciding not to makes you ‘backward’ in some way.”
She concluded that she did not know what she might have done had she agreed to the screening and a disability had been detected, but added that “by skipping screening, I don’t have to know.
“I feel happy, excited and apprehensive but ultimately confident that no matter what happens, this baby, when it arrives, will be cherished and protected.”