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Challenges Of Pregnancy Over 35

This pregnancy has been the most difficult of all my pregnancies. While the second and third pregnancies ended in miscarriages early on, thus minimizing the emotional and physical stress, the prenatal blood tests I took around week 10 came back positive for Trisomy 18 (T18), also called Edwards Syndrome. On a Friday morning while I was at work, the OBGYN called, and from the moment she said “Hello”, I knew it was serious. Most of the telephone conversation is a blur, but I can remember her saying “low survival rate post birth, if the baby even makes it to birth.” During my lunch break and that night, I Googled everything I could about T18. While it is the second most common chromosome abnormality behind Down syndrome, it is much more serious and extremely fatal.

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The weekend was filled with sadness, but not despair, as I had prepared myself all along for the possibility of another miscarriage. I was 36, had already been through two miscarriages, and did not have the same level of fertility as I had with conceiving my daughter. A week and a half later, I was seeing a genetics counselor and a few specialists in Rochester, NY, about three hours away.

The genetics counselor asked us questions about our family history to get a better idea of about the probability that the baby actually had T18. Based on our relatively healthy lifestyles and the fact that there was very little chance that my hubby and I were related (I’m Korean and my husband is the standard white male of European descent), there was a 55% chance that the baby had T18. The specialists did a high resolution ultrasound and a chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Since I knew that a CVS involved a needle in my uterus to the placenta, I asked about any numbing drugs. The doctor said while she can give me lidocaine, the typical burning sensation from lidocaine is actually worse than the needle for the CVS, so I opted out of the lidocaine. It was more uncomfortable than painful. Just take controlled breathes and remain calm.

A few days later, the genetics counselor called with the FISH results, which is a fancy medical word for preliminary results. Of the 200 cells taken from the placenta, 190 of them confirmed the blood tests, but 10 were normal. Because there were some normal cells, she suggested doing an amnio as soon as I was 15 weeks pregnant. Two weeks later, we were back in Rochester for another meeting with the genetics counselor and specialists for another ultrasound and amnio. An amnio is similar to a CVS, but it takes cells from the amniotic fluid rather than the placenta. The genetics counselor was a bit more optimistic this time, since there was a ray of hope with the 10 healthy cells.

Three days later, the genetics counselor called with the best news I had heard in a long time. The FISH results of the amnio were back and the baby was healthy. And while the full results of the amnio would take another week or so, they would be very surprised if the full results showed anything to the contrary.

A week and a half later, she called again to say the full results were normal. The reason the prenatal blood tests and CVS were so different is because the cells on the placenta have a different composition than the cells from the baby, which makes the placenta cells not representative of the baby’s cells. While the baby is healthy, my situation is uncommon, having gone through the prenatal blood test, a CVS, and an amnio. I am proof that prenatal blood testing and CVS’ are not definitive. We went back to Rochester once more after the amnio for a 19 week anatomical ultrasound, which showed an active and healthy baby.

Now at 22 weeks, my belly gets bigger and more inconvenient every week. Two months ago I was coming to grips with the possibility of a pregnancy termination, but my gut told me to remain patient and have hope that everything would be fine.

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