Doctors Recommend Down Syndrome Testing for All Pregnant Women

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At 38 years old, Brenda Bradford of Tallahassee gave birth to her third child. However, unlike some pregnant women her age, she didn't spend part of her pregnancy worrying whether Colby would be a Down syndrome child.

A test early on, called the First Trimester Screening told her mental retardation was unlikely.

"The risk of a Down syndrome child is something you need to be aware of first off, instead of going nine months thinking you've got a healthy child and then have a sick child, it could be very devastating."

Now, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is recommending all pregnant women regardless of age, get the test.

"It’s just one more piece of information other than age to help you decide, ‘do I want to go on and do a diagnostic test for chromosomal abnormalities’," said Dr. Donald Willis, who specializes in maternal fetal medicine.

He says just over the last year, the First Trimester Screening has dramatically increased in popularity.

Ann Davis, who is the executive director of the Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition, welcomes the recommendation. "The moms will know before their baby is born if they are gonna’ have to be dealing with a child that has Down syndrome and what they can do in the family to prepare," she said.

While some are applauding the test, which is less invasive than the amniocentesis, other groups like the Florida Catholic Conference have concerns.

"It is a double edged sword. Certainly it could lead to women seeing that because their child has a genetic defect that they would seek an abortion and that's what we would be concerned about," Sheila Hopkins, Associate for Social Concerns said.

The test is designed to decrease unnecessary amniocenteses and give mothers a reason not to worry early on.

The First Trimester Test is done at 11 weeks and test results come back in three to five days.