Of course, this isn’t to say that prenatal testing doesn’t come without risks, especially with invasive testing such as CVS and amniocentesis. Both of these tests have been linked to miscarriage risks [about 1%], however there are other options. In my two consecutive pregnancies since my daughter’s death, I have not been comfortable with skipping prenatal diagnostic tests completely. I have declined many of the tests, the invasive ones, which can cause miscarriage. Instead, I’ve opted for high-level fetal assesments which are basically in-depth ultrasounds that look specifically for “markers” of conditions linked to chromosome anomalies — and look closely at anatomy to identify potential issues. There is no reason why this technology, the 3-D and 4-D ultrasound machines we have today, shouldn’t be able to pick up the congenital anomalies and physical characteristics associated with Trisomy 18, in a non-invasive way.
But in the end, the only thing that will drastically change the outcome of such a diagnosis, whether it be before birth or after birth, is the continuation of research and education. Each child with Trisomy 18 is unique, and there is a diverse range in the spectrum of Trisomy — from babies who are so medically fragile that they don’t make it to birth alive to children who thrive with little medical intervention. If you look closely, there is definitely a trend in what is “typical” with the health issues that these children present, and there are procedures that often can help to prolong their lives.
There is one thing I have learned and do believe with all my heart; These children deserve to be valued and have the right to access the same medical care that those without an extra chromosome would be offered.
To end, I think that prenatal testing can in fact be a positive and useful tool for parents who are preparing to welcome their very wanted and loved child into this world, regardless of the number of chromosomes they carry. It is not necessarily a gateway to termination for all who opt to have testing done, and in fact can be the opposite. Knowledge is power, and there is not a more powerful and important decision a parent can make than one which can make a difference in the well being of their child.