Page last updated at 18:50 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 19:50 UK

Down's syndrome test: Your views

Baby lying in a cot

Scientists at Stanford University say they have developed a safer blood test that can tell a women if her unborn baby has Down's syndrome.

Current tests include amniocentesis, in which a needle is used to take a sample of fluid from the womb. This can cause some women to miscarry.

BBC News Website readers have been getting in touch with their views and experiences.

Your Views

At the moment, the only way to find out if your baby is alright is to have an amniocentesis which is risky and unpleasant. I recently underwent an amniocentesis and it was a dreadful decision to make. There is the fear that you could miscarry a healthy baby. Also the tests cannot be completed until the second trimester and one has to give birth to terminate at this late stage. With the introduction of this test, women won't have to go through all of the trauma of invasive testing at a late stage of pregnancy.
Wendy, Lincolnshire, UK

I am the mother of a happy and healthy child with Down's syndrome. While not something you might wish for your child, it is not the horrible thing people make it out to be. A safe and effective blood test is a great advancement as both amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling are risky and, in my view, not warranted if the couple is disinclined to terminate the pregnancy. There is no doubt that the medical team benefits from having the diagnosis before birth. But every family is different. For me and my husband, NOT knowing was best. Meeting our child at birth with all his strengths and vulnerabilities was a far more wondrous experience than had we agonized about the diagnosis during pregnancy and spent that time grieving and worried. There's something about the baby being present that makes everything all right.
Debra Janison, Washington, USA

These non-invasive tests are wonderful news. As I was 39 when I fell pregnant with my son, I was labelled an old mum and was bombarded (and scared) by the information on the risks of Down's. I had an amniocentesis at 18 weeks - it was one of the hardest decisions for me and my partner to take. I could never have forgiven myself if I had miscarried, especially knowing it was a healthy baby. Not all people want the test to decide on a termination; the information given is equally powerful in empowering parents with Down's syndrome knowledge and preparing them on what to expect.
Ged Hartshorn, Manchester, UK

Our oldest son was born with Down's syndrome so we decided to have the amniocentesis for our second pregnancy. This was a scary time as we knew that the test could cause a miscarriage. We were lucky and all was fine but this new test that carries no risks would be a phenomenal development. It does beg another question regarding more terminations of babies with Down's syndrome which to us, is very sad.
Adele Rees, Northamptonshire, England

I got pregnant with my first child at 21 and was told I had a one in 60 chance of having a baby with Down's syndrome, the same risk as a 40 year old! I ended up having an amniocentesis which was awful. This was a very scary time, so a new test is wonderful thing. I ended up having a perfect healthy boy, but could have lost him through all the tests and worry. I had my second baby two years ago and decided against the screening for Down's, I couldn't go through that again.
Anon, UK

I think the testing you describe is great so women can avoid the amniocentesis. I am currently six months pregnant and my baby has Down's syndrome. Although finding out early has not impacted my desire to have my child, it has simply given me more time to learn about the challenges my child will face and give me time to learn how to help him or her overcome them.
Patricia Cormack, Mahwah, US

What a relief! I remember I was so scared when I had my amniocentesis. My parents and in-laws are all doctors and were against me having one because of all the risks involved. I was so worried that my right to know would lead to a miscarriage. Thankfully everything went well, my daughter is a year old now and is in perfect health.
Miriam Amir, Cairo, Egypt

Technological advances may be able to procure ever more information, but I fear that this is headed in the direction of eugenics, of "Brave New World" style birth processes, where only foetuses deemed "perfect" or "acceptable" will be allowed to develop. My brother has Down's syndrome and, though his life has been filled with challenges, it has also enriched mine and that of the people he has known in unique and wonderful ways. The thought of him being "terminated" as he almost surely would have been had these tests been available is deeply unsettling.
Alessandro Minoli, New York, US

In 2006, I was 20 weeks along when it was determined that our baby had Trisomy 18. We were devastated as the doctors confirmed that the baby would not come to term and that I would need to terminate the pregnancy. While hearing that news would never have been easy, hearing it at ten or 12 weeks would have been much less difficult to bear. An earlier termination would also have been easier on my body. I applaud the improvements in screening techniques that provide better information to patients and doctors - I wish it had been available for me in 2006.
Kristiana Kincaid, Mountain View, US

This will benefit everyone. It was a major worry of mine when I fell pregnant at the age of 38 and was deemed at high risk of having a Down's syndrome baby. I had the screening test and was given low risk status but only noticed weeks later that an incorrect date of birth was on my records, making me ten years younger and obviously low risk. My baby was healthy but it could have been a different story.
Laura, London

As the father of a child with Down's syndrome child, I welcome non-invasive testing but this must be coupled with better information for parents. They need to be able to make an informed decision. There are still some cases where if blood testing highlights an increased possibility of Down's syndrome it is automatically assumed that the mother will have an amniocentesis, and that if this confirms Down's syndrome then the mother will have a termination. This is a situation which must change.
Leslie Skipper, Sawbridgeworth, UK

Why, so often, is it only Down's syndrome which is discussed in regard to antenatal tests? This test will show up the severe, life-limiting conditions of Edwards Syndrome and Patau Syndrome. Most babies with Edwards Syndrome die before birth; 90-95% of those born will die before their first birthday. More than 80% of babies with Patau syndrome die within a month of birth.
Anonymous, UK

My wife and I had our first child last year and he has Down's syndrome. We were aware that we were high risk but declined an amniocentesis as we had already decided that we would continue with the pregnancy regardless. Had a non-invasive test been available to us, we would certainly have taken that option - but only to enable us to prepare for the birth and the trials ahead a little better. Termination is a personal decision and just because we continued doesn't mean that I feel everybody should. But I would say this - the joy that our son has brought to us, our family and friends is already beyond measure. When I think that we could have lost him through an amniocentesis - well, it just doesn't bear thinking about.
Dave, Worcestershire, UK

Twenty years ago my wife gave birth to a Down's baby. We had no inkling that Laura would have Down's syndrome and I am glad we did not. I can only imagine the agonies that knowledge creates. A non-invasive test for Down's is a great leap forward but I question the need for it. Down's sufferers can now have fulfilling lives of normal length. Sure, the condition poses numerous challenges but all of them are surmountable. Laura is a defining part of our family and we cannot imagine life without her.
David Ball, Wetteren, Belgium

It is crucial women are given balanced, accurate information regarding Down's syndrome. As a mother who has a child with Down's syndrome I know it can at times be hard. However, I also know that now my son is 12, I can no longer feel or see for that matter any reason why my son should not to be with us. He is great fun and loves life!
Fiona, Sydney, Australia

Fifteen years ago our son and daughter-in-law had a Down's syndrome baby. She had many problems at birth and continues to have even more at this time. From a grandparent's viewpoint, we will never hear her speak, see her dance, or play with a friend. Her parents are able to do what is necessary for her, go that extra mile for her, but they do not have a life. If only this test would have been available 15 years ago! No child asks to be born in this condition.
Sherrie Frantz, Eugene, USA

I am the father of two children with Down's syndrome. Having realized the joys and challenges of parenting children with Down's syndrome, I can only hope that these new tests will not encourage more terminations of Down's syndrome babies. There are many people waiting to adopt these children.
Tim Bishop, Valdosta, USA



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