matica logo

Nuchal Scan For Downs Syndrome

I'd never imagined I would ever have to face a decision to terminate a pregnancy. If the nuchal scan showed any sign of abnormality this is a decision we would have to make.

scan of baby at 13 weeks
picture of baby at 13 weeks

Warning - I don't want to offend anyone with any disability. Times have changed and we are now faced with moral and ethical decisions we only recently have had to face. I almost didn't write this article but what is the point in running this Website if I'm not honest about my thoughts and feelings, picking and choosing what I publish in an effort not to offend, or to look good. If you feel the subject matter of disability, abortion, or downs syndrome may offend you then don't read it!

I'd never really thought too much about abortions, I didn't have a strong view either way. Of course I've been sexually active for a long time and had already made up my mind about what I would do if I'd acidently made someone pregnant. If someone had informed me I'd made them pregnant and they were more than a few days into the pregnancy I would try and talk the woman into keeping the baby. If we knew on the night then the morning after pill would be an option. I really don't think a few cells that have been togther for a few hours constitutes a human.

The only other time I'd thought about the issue was when I heard of a fetus being aborted because of a cleft pallate. I remember thinking that in a wealthy country a cleft pallate is not a serious enough defect for me to consider terminating a pregnancy.

Now I am forced to consider the subject much more deeply. At a consultation we were told that as Clare was 33 and not 35 we would not be offered a Nuchal Scan. If we wanted one we would have to go to a clinic and pay for one. This can be done between 10 and 14 weeks, when we told a friend of ours who is a GP she said we had to get it done asap as we were only days away from the cuttoff point. Clare called the clinic and 2 days later we had the test done exactly 13 weeks and 2 days into the pregnancy.

This gave us very little thinking time. We discussed it all day and all night, and our main points were as follows. A physical abnormality such as a missing limb, cleft pallate, even problems with hearing and seeing would be unfortunate but we felt we could cope. The child may have a different life but we felt they could make their way in todays world and have as good a life as anyone. I think it is natural to want your child to be as physically normal as possible, what we had decided was that an abnormality wasn't a huge deal to us.

What we struggled with was any kind of mental abnormality. Selfishly how would it effect our quality of life? We want more children, will our other children get the attention and opportunities we want to give them if we have a child that needs constant special attention? We would think nothing of darting off to live in another Country, we take big financial risks, this would have to change. We also fretted about what would happen to such a child once we died, we wouldn't be able to give them the skills to take on the world that we could offer to a child without any mental deficiency. It was looking like we were not certain we would continue this pregnancy if our child had downs syndrome.

I've taken many exams, but this was a test you couldn't revise for, and couldn't retake. I was feeling the stress, glad it was so rushed so I'd only had a day or so to worry about it. I'd recently seen an episode of Diagnosis Murder with Dick Van Dyke. The guy who was behind the A-Team, Renegade, and other shows was in it. You know the guy that takes the paper our of the typewriter and throws it during the end credits. One of his lines was 'You never know which way lady luck is going to spit, you just hope it's not in your breakfast', later in the show he got a bad phonecall and when someone asked him what was wrong he replied 'Lady luck just hocked up a heffer sized spit wad and heaved it on my life'. I was hoping that today Lady Luck wasn't going to spit on my breakfast!

I don't remember any of the 1 hour drive to the clinic. We had a business call which we took on speakerphone (hands free) but it worries me that I was driving and don't remember anything. I remember very little of the drive home also, I think Clare called her Mum.

During the test I was terrfied, everything I saw on the screen I expected something to be wrong. I was reading the clinician, watching her expressions like a hawk to see if she looked concerned. We were told the Nuchal fold looked good, head size was normal, the nose had formed (lack of nose at this stage can be a sign of downs). We looked at the heart, liver, everything. When we left we were told there is a very low chance of Downs Syndrome and that all the other things they were screening for looked low probability also. We had to wait for a blood test to come back, but things looked good.

We got a picture of the scan to take home, I sat in the car drained. We decided to take the day off work. So far this was as real as it had got, I'd seen our baby. Honestly I couldn't tell you what we would have done should the tests have looked bad. I really can't imagine making that decision, but other people have been faced with exactly that dilema. I feel so lucky at this point, and I would never judge anyone who has to make such a decison, whatever way they choose to go. I guess next time we will be even older and there is more of a chance that we will face such a decision ourselves. I'm hoping by then there may be some comments on this article we can look back on
which will give us further food for thought.

Click here to check out our pregnancy calculator.