Down syndrome is on every pregnant woman’s mind. The onset of Down Syndrome has been linked to different conditions during gestation, but there is really no concrete evidence about its true cause. Many different theories exist, and it is simply impossible to determine which foods, chemicals, activities, and situations you should avoid during pregnancy to prevent your child from getting Down Syndrome. Such conditions make testing for the condition during gestation a popular option. With the advent of advanced medical technology, it is now possible to test your child’s likelihood of having Down Syndrome in your first trimester. Such early testing is obviously tempting for many women, but it is very important to first know everything about such a test, and studies show that many women don’t.

A recent study, in particular, was designed to determine whether or not women truly grasped the concept of first-trimester Down Syndrome screening. The results showed that, while many women did understand what was being tested for and how, few knew anything about the accuracy of the test and its drawbacks. If you are thinking about getting tested for Down Syndrome in your first trimester, you should first research the accuracy of the test. The test will show you the likelihood of your child having Down Syndrome, but will not be a yes-or-no conclusion. Your results should also be assessed by a professional genetic counselor. The tests are not meant to diagnose fetal abnormalities. As far as disadvantages of the test go, it will vary depending on which particular test you choose. However, most tests are very expensive, and their cost should be weighed against their outcomes. Additionally, only approximately one in every four babies known to have Down Syndrome in the first trimester survive to term, so such knowledge puts an unnecessary stress on the mother, as the spontaneous abortion cannot be predicted.

First-trimester Down Syndrome screening is certainly a marvel of modern medicine. However, before you decide to go through with such testing, be sure you understand all of the risks and disadvantages associated with it. Studies show that many women do understand the method of testing, but have not learned much about what their results will mean. When they learn the implications of positive results, many women decide to wait until later in the pregnancy or after birth to test for Down syndrome, as the results could pose an unbearable burden.

Source: K. Dahl et al: First-Trimester Down Syndrome Screening: Pregnant Women’s Knowledge. Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology Volume 38 Issue 2 pp. 145-151 July 2011