How to Deal with Prenatal Testing Anxiety

This post was written by Laura Johnson

Some people break into a cold sweat at the mere mention of the word “doctor.” The idea of prenatal testing can be even more intimidating, despite how important it can be for the health of mother and baby alike. Here are a few things to think about before having any prenatal testing done, and some ways to set your mind at ease.

Pre-test jitters

Sometimes, getting up the courage to go in for the tests at all can be the worst part. It is often best to have support on hand – whether it be an equally nervous partner, an experienced (and probably secretly nervous) grandparent-to-be, or even just a friend. A reassuring presence and the guarantee of a shoulder to cry on can make something that could be quite frightening otherwise, into a bonding experience, and the foundation of a healthy, happy pregnancy.

What if the results are positive?

Test ResultsThis is what most of us really fear when we think about prenatal testing – what if the news isn’t good? Here is something you should think about before spending too much time worrying about the results of a non-invasive Down syndrome test, or any other prenatal procedure.

First of all, a positive result from a prenatal screening test does not necessarily mean that your baby has a 100% chance of having that genetic condition. It only means that one of the indicators that the test was designed to look for was detected. In the case of non invasive prenatal genetic testing, this usually means that higher than expected levels of certain proteins were found in the mother’s blood.

There are a number of reasons that a protein the test is designed to detect might be there – that’s why medical professionals recommend following up on a positive prenatal test with genetic counseling and a more invasive genetic test, like amniocentesis. If it was a false positive result, there is every chance that you will have a fully normal pregnancy, despite a positive result on an early, non-invasive prenatal genetic screening.

What kinds of things could cause a false positive result?

This depends on which test was performed. As an example, let’s look at the alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test: because AFP levels typically rise throughout pregnancy, a poorly estimated due date could mean that what the test reports as a “high” AFP count might, in fact, be normal. It could be related to hypertension in the mother, or to a number of other factors.

If the results are positive, what should I do?

medical instrumentsWhile a positive prenatal result doesn’t definitively indicate any abnormalities, your doctor will almost certainly order more tests. It may vary which tests he or she orders for you.  Much depends on exactly what the test was positive for, but just as much could hinge on the mother’s health and other aspects of her situation – including any known genetic risk factors either of the parents may have. Follow-up tests may be more invasive, but they will also be much more conclusive.

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