A Worrisome Wait
A scary prenatal-test result forces this woman to think about possible decisions.
Laura Randolph 30, California
Laura's tips for dealing with a potentially problematic pregnancy:
•Talk to friends about your situation--they may have dealt with a similar dilemma.
•If you're dealing with AFP test results, focus on the statistics that show a high number of false positives.
•Try not to let your emotions get the best of you or to allow worries to spiral out of control.
The one thing no one told me was just how nerve-wracking pregnancy could be. Granted, I tend to be overly worrisome, but since the day I found out I was pregnant, I obsessed over each and every potential harm to my baby. So when a genetic counselor called to say the results of my recent blood test indicated my baby could have Down syndrome, I was beside myself.
The genetic counselor informed me that the results of my alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test showed a 1 in 170 chance of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome. While he calmly explained there were 169 very healthy babies in that equation, I felt as though all my irrational fears about the baby's health had just been confirmed.
Having overeducated myself about every aspect of pregnancy, I had read that the somewhat controversial AFP test could yield a very frightening false-positive result. And of those who do get a false-positive reading, only a very small number actually have babies with birth defects.
Yet I still felt as though my risk, however small, was the end of my world. My doctor explained that the next step (level-two ultrasound) catches only 50 percent of babies with Down syndrome. The only sure way to tell was through an amniocentesis, a procedure that, in itself, carries about a 1 in 200 to 400 chance of miscarriage. If an amnio was the only way to know for sure, that's what I had to do.