THE EMOTIONAL COST OF MEDICAL TESTING

When a woman who swims at my Y heard that I was writing a book on pregnancy, she asked me if I planned to include any material on prenatal testing.  She said that when she was pregnant, she had had a routine AFP test done.  The test showed that she was carrying an anencephalic baby.  She insisted that the test be done again.  This time the test came back with different results: the baby had Down's Syndrome.  The third test?  "Not completely normal," said the doctor, "but close enough." (whatever that meant).  Judy said once you get the results, and there's any question at all, you are no longer waiting for a baby.  You are waiting in the delivery room for the doctors to tell you if they were right or wrong.  She said that her husband was great throughout the pregnancy: he said to her, "Don't worry, honey.  If the baby is this or that we'll deal with it."  But he fell apart afterwards (the baby was perfectly fine).  Judy said, "He never played with the baby.  He just kept testing him."  Her relatives concerned that the initial diagnosis might be right, continually asked, "Do you think he looks alright?  Don't you think his eyes are funny?"  Clearly, they had been prejudiced by the results of the test.

excerpted from Open Season: A Survival Guide for Natural Childbirth and VBAC in the 90's, by Nancy Wainer (Cohen), 1991