Combined Screening – the big decision

We had to make our first big decision at our first midwife appointment this week. Should we go for the Combined Screening at our 12 week scan, or should we not.

It’s a big decision to us, and I’d imagine to most expectant parents, because it’s a question of how much do you want to know, and what would you do with the information if you had it.

The Combined Screening looks for Downs Syndrome, and Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes, and while I was obviously familiar with Downs Syndrome, I was shocked to learn during my reading up that Edwards’ and Patau’s Syndromes have a very short life expectancy for the baby, often not even beyond birth. I’m not an expert on this so don’t want to explain too much in my own words in case I get it wrong, so here’s a link to the NHS website where you’ll be able to find all the accurate info.

The Combined Screening doesn’t tell you 100% either way if, or what, your baby has. You’ll get told that you’re at Low Risk or High Risk. If you’re at Low Risk, you assume the best and carry on with your pregnancy. If you’re in the High Risk category, you then get the option to go on and have further diagnostic tests which can tell you more accurately if there is a problem. However diagnostic tests come with a risk of miscarriage, which the initial screening doesn’t.

For us, the question was… if we find out we’re High Risk, would we want to take the next step and risk miscarriage. If we’re not prepared to do that, is there any point in having the screening done in the first place, as we’d just been left with six months of anxiety and not knowing if that High Risk is going to materialise.

On the other hand, if we don’t have the screening and there is a problem, it’s something we will find out when it’s too late, potentially after spending a full 9 months falling in love with our baby.

In our case, Downs Syndrome isn’t featuring in our dilemma, and we would be happy to not have the screening for this. The Edwards’ and Patau’s Syndromes are the concerning areas, due to their usual fatal natures, I can’t imagine the pain of having to go through that at such a late stage. If you can make an informed decision, and take control of that, wouldn’t you?

It’s such a personal decision, and while I just wanted the midwives to tell me what to do, of course they couldn’t. The last bit of info they gave us was that the blood tests they take as part of the screening now have something new which makes them far more accurate than they used to be. So if we’re Low Risk we can be fairly sure all is good. If we’re High Risk, we can be equally sure something’s amiss and can make a decision on the next step based on more accurate information.

So… we made the initial decision to go for the screening, but on the understanding that we’re able to downgrade the appointment to a dating scan only if we change our mind (we couldn’t do it the other way around without rearranging the appointments completely). So basically we haven’t fully made a decision. There’s obviously no right or wrong answer, and I’m really not 100% sure we’re doing the right thing, and probably never will be.

Being first trimester and keeping it a secret means there really isn’t anyone to turn to for new points of view. So if you’re in the same boat as me, or have been recently, I’d love to hear your experience of the big screening decision…