Prenatal Genetic Testing: Making the Choice That's Right for You

Religious and personal beliefs, as well as support from family members, and a positive experience with disabled children also impact these women when making this choice. When the decision is not based on firm religious beliefs, a mother may also be influenced by the effects that a special-needs child will have on the rest of her family, especially children. Will they suffer, or gain, from the experience? This is an answer only the parents can decide, and are most qualified to do so, because they know their own personal resources and limits.

Counseling can help you determine whether your lifestyle and psychological makeup help, rather than hinder, your adjustment to parenting a special-needs child. One advantage of having genetic testing, even if you do not believe in terminating a pregnancy, is to help parents prepare for a special-needs child, particularly, if there is medical history indicating a greater likelihood of a genetic problem.


Dealing with guilt
Women who chose to terminate pregnancies in which genetic risk is identified experience predictable stress. Guilt, arising from the decision, can haunt a woman, particularly in her next pregnancy. This should be anticipated, and counseling during the early part of a subsequent pregnancy, particularly through the period of testing, should be obtained.

One example is a first-time mother terminated her pregnancy at 16 weeks, following a positive test for Down's Syndrome. This situation illustrates one woman’s process of working through tough decisions that can arise with the choices we are now presented. This woman chose to not avoid childbirth, (an option whereby the fetus is removed from the womb with the mother unconscious), but proceeded with a fully conscious labor and delivery of her small child. She and her husband held, and mourned, their baby after birth in a very courageous acceptance of facing the situation and the decision she and her husband made. The following year, she came for counseling, due to premature labor, which began at the same time she had terminated the first pregnancy. Guilt and tears flowed as she expressed her great emotional pain. With support, she was able to accept her past actions, but not allow them to keep her from loving the new baby on the way. Guilt had caused her to feel unworthy of motherhood, a reaction that kept her apart from the child she now carried. Her early contractions abated, as her guilt eased, and her amnio showed a healthy child. With therapy, she was able to sustain and deliver two healthy children she now loves and cherishes.

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