When I was asked by the midwife which tests I wanted I basically just said 'yes to all of the above' without giving it much more thought than that. It was only when I was talking to a close friend who is also pregnant that it occurred to me that not everyone would do the same. In fact she had opted to not have Downs screening on the basis that she wouldn't abort the baby whether it had Downs or not. I suppose you could see that opinion as admirable but I also think that it's a bit short-sighted. Not that I should criticise because I hadn't felt the need to give the subject a great deal of thought myself at that point.
However, I had said yes and so it was part of my 12 week scan. It forced me to think about why I wanted the tests and what I would do with the results. For those of you that don't know the process, the first part of the test is to establish if you are high risk or low risk. That is done by measuring the fluid at the back of the baby's neck via ultrasound. They also take some of your blood and with the fluid measurement and the blood they are able to say if your risk is high or low. If it is high there are further tests available which are considerably more intrusive, painful and risky in terms of potential miscarriage. Again you are told what the chances are of your baby having downs syndrome rather than a definitive yes or no. So the first stage is a piece of cake but the second is a serious decision which still only calculates your odds.
So I had the first stage done and spent spent some time considering deeply what I would do if the results came back as high risk. It's not a decision to take lightly and everyone is entitled to their own opinion on it depending on their particular circumstances. For me, I wouldn't consider aborting my baby even if it did have a high chance of having Downs but I would have wanted to educate and prepare myself properly. I know nothing about caring for a baby (or child) with special needs and I wouldn't want to try and cope with that at the same time as learning how to deal with a new born. I'm sure that those first few months are going to be hard enough as it is. I also decided that if the first stage tests came back as high risk, I wasn't prepared to go through the second round of intrusive tests which would risk my baby.
I felt very happy with my decision and then just had to wait for that letter to arrive. I had been told that I'd get a phone call within a week if I was high risk or a letter within three weeks if I was low risk. Remarkably, I got a letter three days later (wel done NHS!!) and was delighted to see LOW RISK. According to my age and history (not sure what they mean by history) my risk factor was around 1:600 that I would have a Downs baby but after the testing that figure has changed to 1:13500.
I'm so pleased that I had the tests done! I know, being the type that I am, that this would have been at the back of my mind for 9 months if I had decided to decline the tests. This way I have complete peace of mind and I don't have to do a whole lot of unnecessary studying! Let me be clear though - this was the right decision for me and I would never consider someone in the wrong for deciding to do things differently. Whenever something scares me (like my endometriosis or my mum's bowel cancer) my way of coping is to learn as much as possible but I am fully aware that makes some people feel worse rather than better.