Fearfully Awaiting Prenatal Test Results

I am 17 weeks pregnant and recently got abnormal results on an MSAFP. They were low and indicated the I had a 1 in 149 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. (I have a healthy three-year-old son and no other risk factors.) Although the ultrasound revealed nothing abnormal, we decided to have amniocenticis. Since I had the test I have not been able to function. I can't sleep, I have been vomiting frequently and when I do sleep I'm having constant nightmares. I have lost five pounds and I'm concerned about the health of my baby. I have tried relaxation techniques, focusing on positives, and keeping as busy as possible. Nothing is helping. I am almost paralyzed with fear.


Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

You are currently facing one of the most difficult situations that life can offer and have every right to feel as you feel. You are at once a victim and a recipient of one of medical technologies greatest triumphs -- the ability to "see" into the womb. This great achievement is won on the backs of women who must deal with medicine's ability to "see," but not interpret. Medical science is like the blind man trying to decipher the structure and threat of an elephant by only feeling his leg or tail. (You get the picture.) We only have part of the puzzle.

Even with the most supportive partner and family, women often feel alone at this point. But all women need help in dealing with this. It is too bad that physicians don't know this and automatically refer women to family therapists when such a situation is encountered. Mothers feel they must put up this brave front also to protect their families.

I would recommend that you find a psychologist or family therapist with experience in counseling about pregnancy issues. If you are unsure where to start, some suggestions might be "First Call for Help" in your community, your local chapter of the March of Dimes, a certified nurse midwife, because they are good at listening and are knowledgeable about experts in their locality. Another option is to contact a genetics counselor. They can usually be found at larger Universities or call a local medical school to see if they have a program.

Because this is one of the greatest challenges that you will ever face, whether or not the amnio shows a problem, you cannot deal with this alone. What you are feeling is normal but you should allow yourself to grieve because you have suffered a loss. You need to confide these feelings to a skilled sensitive care provider.

The facts that all appears fine on ultrasound and you have a healthy first child are reassuring.

To find a CNM is your area call: 1-888-MIDWIFE. You may also wish you contact a support group for parents of children with Down Syndrome, even before you know. This is the only place I know where most of the parents have been through what you are now going through. You could call a local neonatal intensive care unit to find out about this.

I wish you and your family well.

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