Tests Performed During Pregnancy

Different procedures entail different risks to the fetus, but complications of amniocentesis and CVS--though rare-- include fetal death, fetal puncture wounds, premature rupture of the membranes, premature birth, a low birth weight baby, and maternal bleeding or leaking of amniotic fluid. There may be unknown side effects as well because studies have not been performed to determine long-term side effects of either procedure. The risks for AFP are a possible misinterpretation of test results and your consequent anxiety. If you have the triple marker test, however, reliability is much greater because three hormones--AFP, HCG, and estriol--are measured instead of just AFP.

Even when prenatal tests are 100 percent accurate, they cannot determine all possible defects. Women can have accurate prenatal testing and still bear a child who has birth defects. It is impossible to engineer the "perfect" baby.

How to Decide
A woman who is willing to have an abortion based on prenatal test results is among those who benefits the most.

Although no one woman probably has all of the following characteristics, surveys indicate that the best candidate for prenatal testing is likely to have some college education, believes a small number of children is ideal, has perhaps had an abortion previously, is not much of a church-goer, and does not believe the Bible is the literal word of God. She may also believe a child with a severe defect would not have a good life.

Another woman who especially benefits from prenatal testing is the one who already has a child with a severe birth defect. She often feels intensely that she would not have another child with a birth defect, and she faces the consequences of prenatal testing with the assurance of that knowledge. For example, a couple with a child who has Tay- Sachs disease faces in each pregnancy a one-in-four chance of having another child with Tay-Sachs who will be blind, deaf, retarded, and who will die young.

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