Making Sense of All These Tests and Information
I spent a lot of time this week thinking about genetics and what part it plays in my pregnancy. See, I have the first part of my prenatal integrated screening with a genetic counselor on Tuesday. I wonder what might be lurking in my genetic profile! My state, California, requires that all expectant moms get the integrated screening tests, which look for all kinds of genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome.
My husband went with me to the appointment. I wanted him there for support, obviously, but also as a second set of ears—sometimes the medical lingo gets overwhelming (and confusing). Before we even went to the appointment we made sure my health insurance would cover it. I've discovered with insurance—call before you go! If you don't, you'd better be ready to pay out of pocket before anyone will do any testing. We met with a counselor first who asked about our ethnic backgrounds, ages, and family history. I'm still considered young (33) and neither one of us has any family history of genetic disorders.
After our 30-minute chat, we were taken to the next step—an ultrasound to measure the amount of fluid located at the back of the baby's neck area. I asked a lot of questions about this part: Will the baby be touched? Will we know results right away? What is a normal reading? I know expectant moms must ask these questions all the time, and the technicians must get tired of answering them, but I still needed to hear the answers for myself. We started by finding the baby—I didn't know that I was supposed to have a full bladder (I mean full) so they could see the baby better. Even though I'd downed more than 32 ounces of water in the four hours before the test, it didn't seem to be enough. The technician finally found the baby, and for a moment we all just watched it wiggle around. I was amazed at how much the baby was moving and I couldn't even feel it!
For the next 20 minutes, the technician tried to get the little bugger to stay still so we could get a good reading. She asked me to cough, breathe deeply, and move a little. After the technician got a good reading, she printed out a couple of snapshots for us. She let us listen to the baby's heartbeat, too. My husband and I'd been holding our breath wondering if she would be giving us any information, but she just smiled so I guess everything's okay.
Then we went back to the sitting room to await my favorite part of the whole process—taking blood! I hate needles. I've found that if I turn my head away and start up some sort of meaningless conversation with whoever is sticking me, I can get through it. Luckily she only needed two vials and it was over quickly.
I was told to stop by in four weeks for the last part—another blood sample! The two blood samples would be checked together along with the ultrasound to determine the risk of Down syndrome in our child. At that point we could meet with the counselor again to discuss options if we were concerned with the results. Our healthcare provider might also recommend an amniocentesis (to check the amniotic fluid) based on the results of these tests. I kept telling myself, though, that the tests were only to "evaluate risk," they weren't pass/fail.
We were feeling a little on edge after our appointment. The whole thing lasted two hours start to finish, why did it seem like so much longer? We talked about how we felt about the ultrasound—everything seemed good, looked good. So we thought we shouldn't worry about our baby, but just relax. No matter what, we know we will love our child and we are so lucky to be pregnant!
Waist measurement: 33 inches
Weekly weigh-in: 154 pounds
Pregnancy symptoms: Sore breasts! Ouch! I'm waiting for this to go away! They are a lot bigger though. Oh, and I'll be so happy when I don't have morning sickness all day.
My pregnancy advice for the week: Look but don't touch! (In reference to the enlarged breasts☺.)
Pregnancy "first" of the week: Nothing fits me! I am starting to wear empire-waist dresses and am thinking I can get away with this for about two more weeks, and then I will have to break down and go to a maternity clothing store.
Doctor's visit: Genetic counseling—oh so fun. All joking aside, this is a serious test and can help you figure out whether it's worth doing more testing. If your insurance covers it, I'd recommend it for peace of mind.
About the Photo: The above picture of the author was taken during her 12th week of pregnancy by Dean Lipoff.
Read the next installment: week 13