I was sitting in the waiting room at an ultrasound clinic a few weeks ago, steeling myself for a needle in the stomach that would tell me if my baby had Down Syndrome.
One of the routine blood tests that accompanied my (perfectly normal) 12-week scan was off the scale and, coupled with my ‘advanced maternal age’ had served to skew the calculation that gives you a ‘number’ on your chances of chromosonal abnormality.
Having been told my number was one in two a few days prior, you can imagine my frame of mind.
Opposite me was a lady I estimated to be in her late 60s, about the same age as my own mother. A woman emerged beaming from the consulting room and handed her a black and white image.
“Oh my,” the lady said, tearing up. “Isn’t it amazing what they can do these days?”
Just one generation on from when this woman was pregnant with her daughter, we have more information than our mothers could have dreamed of. Ultrasounds, blood tests, CVS, amniocentesis, and now a new blood test (available only privately at this stage) that can test for genetic abnormalities as early as 10 weeks and tell you the sex to boot.
My mother is frankly baffled by all this talk. In her day, she says, the doctor wouldn’t even let you make an appointment until you’d missed at least two periods. She thinks she might have had a miscarriage once at about seven weeks, but she’s not sure. When is a miscarriage a miscarriage and when is it a late period?, she reasons.
These days, if you’re trying to conceive, especially if you’re having fertility treatment, you know you’re pregnant at four weeks (and as we all know, that’s actually only two) leaving you 36 weeks to worry about what might go wrong.