Your Feelings about Prenatal Testing
Prenatal testing and procedures brings a complex range of emotions. It's normal to feel nervous or anxious about prenatal testing. Some tests, such as ultrasound scanning, make you feel excited.
Others are overwhelming, especially as you sort through the pros and cons of each test. It's a lot of responsibility to choose to have or not to have a procedure done.
It's hard to think of what you'll do if a test shows your baby may not be developing normally. You have to face the choice, or even the expectation, to terminate your pregnancy. Or you face the worry of continuing a pregnancy with a child who is not “normal.” Many emotions come up in this situation.
Researching Prenatal Tests
As you begin to research prenatal testing you may feel overwhelmed. Your care provider may be pressuring you one way or another. Your own family may do the same.
You'll find a lot of information about the pros and cons of each prenatal test. Weighing the pros and cons and making an intelligent decision about all tests is the best action.
Even after you've made your choice your emotions may still be overwhelming. If you've decided to have a test or procedure done you'll feel nervous in the days leading up to the test.
It's normal to feel anxious about ultrasound testing. You worry about problems during the scan, or fear seeing your baby isn't “normal.” Or you fear something may be wrong and they won't be given any details about it. You don't want to be left in the dark.
Feelings of anxiety about a baby's gender are normal. Perhaps you have a child of one gender already and are hoping for the opposite this time. Perhaps you're scared to parent a specific gender.
It's ok and normal to have these feelings. Some women worry they won't bond with their baby if baby isn't the gender they were hoping for. These feeling are valid and can be a reason for declining routine ultrasound. You can also request that gender remain a secret.
Routine ultrasound has few benefits and the safety for unborn babies hasn't been fully proven, so you can feel totally comfortable declining ultrasound unless there's a compelling reason (such as suspected twins) to have the procedure during.
I Decided Not To Test…But “What If?”
It's normal to have second thoughts and “what if” feelings if you decide against a test or procedure. It may help to talk to your partner or midwife about this, or to write about it. Focusing on taking excellent care of yourself.
Remember, you made an informed choice for your baby.
Scared of Being Violated
Some women feel that tests such as pap smears, cervical checks, and internal examinations violate them. These feelings are okay, too. It is okay to feel scared about this.
You can decline these tests.
Take someone to your appointment for moral support if you need to. Or write a letter and request that your doctor read it before you do anything (even put on an examination gown). Ask to discuss it in his or her office or somewhere where you do not feel “on the spot.”
These are complex feelings and they deserve to be honored. Talk them over with your care provider. Midwives are often especially sensitive to issues like this and can help you work through them. If they're rooted in abuse or negative experiences, working through them with someone compassionate may help.
If you decide to have an internal procedure done that gives you a feeling of violation you'll be scared. There should always be a nurse or assistant in the room with you! You can take someone you trust with you. This could be your partner, your mother, your sister, your best friend, or anybody you feel comfortable with who can hold your hand. Don't let your doctor tell you that you can't have somebody with you.
A special note for young mothers: Your doctor, your nurse, your mother, or anybody else does not have the right to tell you who can and can't be with you for an exam, no matter what your age is. If you want your partner there, you can have your partner there, even if you're not married. If you're told that you can't have someone with you, refuse the procedure. If you don't want your mother there, then don't let her in the room. Refuse the procedure if she or anyone you don't want there won't leave. It's your right to make health care choices for your baby and yourself during pregnancy. Research your options, become well-educated, and make the right choices during your pregnancy.
I put this note here because it happens often with internal exams, but it applies to anything during your pregnancy. You have the right to decide who will be there and who won't be there! (Good for mamas of all ages to remember)
My Baby May Have Problems
You'll feel fear. You may feel sick to your stomach. You'll grieve. Your care provider may order more tests; some of these may be more dangerous and more invasive. Making more choices about testing can be heart-wrenching. Sometimes you may feel alone and isolated, even if you have a partner.
You may be scared to bond with your baby. You may feel that other people (including your care provider) are condemning you because of your choices. You wonder how you'll care for a baby that may have problems, or what you'll do if your baby dies.
If you choose to have higher level testing done you may be scared it will hurt your baby. You may be anxious and stressed while you wait, sometimes for weeks, for test results. It is normal to feel tense and be short with others at a time like this. You may be scared as you contemplate what you'll do if it turns out that your baby has an abnormality.
In both of these cases it may be helpful to research the disorders or defects your baby might have. You can contact organizations in your city that serve families with children who have these conditions. Meeting and seeing these families may help you. Seeking out support groups may help.
I Know My Baby has Problems
If your test results come back positive for a defect or disorder you'll be faced with hard choices. Your pregnancy may be filled with doubts and uncertainties. You may be afraid to share what you are going through. You feel like people are condemning you for your choices.
You may feel angry or resentful. You wonder why this happened to you and why you are forced to make such choices.
Find out all you can about your options. Ask for as much detail as you want. Find out what is likely to happen to your child as your pregnancy continues, and after birth. Ask for honest answers, not scare tactics.
If you lose your baby during pregnancy, your baby is stillborn, or if your baby dies soon after birth, don't feel that it's your fault. Know that you did what you felt was best for your baby. Feel free to grieve. Stay away from people who hint that you should have terminated your pregnancy.
Looking for More Support
No matter what your situation is, seek out support when you feel ready to. Talk to your care provider about prenatal tests and about your baby. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.
Don't be afraid to hire another care provider if yours won't listen to your thoughts and feelings. This is your body, your pregnancy, and your baby.