Hudson Valley Parent

October 2013

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To test or not to test? Is prenatal screening right for you? By AILEEN WEINTRAUB P renatal screening includes a variety of tests that are designed to assess the health of both mother and child. While there is no test that can guarantee a healthy baby, prenatal screening can provide prospective parents with a sense of preparedness and reassurance. However, though some of these tests are standard, such as routine blood work and the glucose tolerance test, others are controversial due to their inherent risks. Maternal serum screening, a blood test that estimates the probability of a potential birth defect, can provide false positive results, which often require further testing, not to mention unnecessary stress and anxiety. Dr. Kimberly Heller of Health Quest Medical Practice in Poughkeepsie, explains: "Screening tests screen, but do not diagnose a condition. A screening test identifies a portion of the population at higher risk for a condition who may benefit from further diagnostic testing. So, if a woman has a positive penta screen, this means she may be at higher risk than the general population to have a baby with Down syndrome. It does not mean that the baby actually has Down syndrome. Further testing (with amniocentesis or CVS) would be needed to make the diagnosis of Down syndrome." Amnio and CVS Amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS), which 42 Hudson Valley Parent n October 2013 involve inserting a needle through the belly into the uterus to remove cells from the amniotic fluid or placenta, pose risks such as miscarriage. And even though these tests have the ability to diagnose chromosomal abnormalities and genetic deformities, they cannot tell you the severity. The process can make parents anxious, and because many tests are based on percentages and probability, results are often left up to the doctor's interpretation. Stacey Foster, 40, a mother of two living in Port Ewen, says, "I refused the triple screen for our first child but was told to do it for our second due to my age." Women over the age of 35 have an increased risk of conceiving a baby with a genetic abnormality. Foster adds, "For us, the test caused a lot of anxiety. I had a high positive rate, which led to much more invasive testing. The CVS was painful, but the most painful part

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