One concern many older mothers have is Down syndrome. Statistics on Down syndrome can frighten any mother—but especially older women. It is at age 35 when the usual age questions arise about genetic testing. In our practice, we believe the arbitrary age for concern over Down syndrome should be at least 40 years, although concerns over other chromosomal disorders may lower this age to 35. Check the statistics and see how the incidence of any chromosomal disorder increases with age:
|Mother’s Age||Risk of Baby with Down Syndrome||Risk of Baby with Any Chromosomal Disorder|
No matter what your age, it’s important to discuss with your health-care provider the benefits and risks of prenatal screening tests. The choice of having these tests is entirely up to you. Consider these factors:
- Would the results of the test cause you to change the course of your pregnancy?
- Would knowing about a chromosomal defect beforehand help you adjust and prepare to parent a special-needs baby?
- Would not knowing such important information cause you to have a worry- filled or joyless pregnancy?
Sometimes the risk or “fear” that coincides with tests is not worth it, especially if you have a false positive and that fear never plays out (the baby is born healthy!). That scenario occurs in many cases causing the parents of the preborn child much unnecessary stress and worry.
Our seventh child, Stephen, has Down syndrome, something we did not know about beforehand. We elected not to have prenatal testing. Stephen has been a blessing to our family and has provided challenges that have made our lives richer. Whatever you decide, make sure you think about the pros and cons of prenatal screening tests, knowing that emotional and physical risks are always involved.