Women often have ultrasound or amniocentesis in order to find out that “ everything is okay “ with the baby. Western culture trains us to want assurances of perfection and predictability which are not possible to achieve. No test or combination of tests will tell you that “ everything is okay.” Certain tests can you that some things are normal. It is important to have a clear sense of what you want to know in order to use the tests most effectively and wisely.

It is up to you to decide the significance of the risks, benefits, and side effects of each test.

Some couples want information about the baby in order to prepare themselves and learn as much as possible about a particular condition before the baby is born. Others must decide whether to continue the pregnancy if certain conditions exist. Some expectant parents feel they could never handle raising a deformed or handicapped baby. Again, it is important to be specific about what you mean. Is a cleft lip deformity enough to abort? What about club foot Testing can only tell you that a condition exists, not the extent. A baby with spina bifida may be severely and multiply handicapped, or it may not be. A baby with Down’s syndrome may be mildly retarded and able to function as an adult, or may be profoundly retarded with multiple handicaps.

There is no way to know these things before the birth. It may be helpful to contact parents of children with these conditions to learn about the day to day joys and difficulties of raising children with the conditions you are most concerned about.