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Antenatal Screening

Question:
לכבוד הרבנים ומרן הגאב׳ד שליט׳א

Screening for Down’s syndrome and other genetic disorders is offered to all pregnant women. There are different ways of carrying out screening tests. A triple screen or quad screen is a first-trimester maternal blood test offered to all pregnant mothers alongside a nuchal translucency ultrasound test between 8-14 weeks of pregnancy. The blood test looks at the level of three (in a triple screen) or four (in a quad screen) substances in a mother’s blood, as well as factors such as age and ethnicity, to estimate her chances of having a baby with an abnormality. Test results can show if a woman has an increased risk of having a baby with defects such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21) or spinal abnormalities such as spina bifida. The test does not identify or diagnose specific problems but simply the risk. If a women finds that she at moderate to high risk of having a baby with a problem, she is asked to choose to have an ultrasound or a diagnostic test such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) to get more information. This information can potentially affect prenatal care as the pregnant woman may need to be monitored more closely during her pregnancy as well as during labour to ensure a safe delivery.

Is it halachically acceptable to undergo the initial triple/quadruple blood test with nuchal translucency test or should a pregnant mother decline undergoing any of them?

With many thanks.

Answer:

The general approach to tests during pregnancy should be that whatever is being done for the health of the mother and/or baby could be and in fact should be done. This includes standard ultrasound monitoring, blood tests and the like. On many occasions the above supply important information which allows us to better treat mother and child. Tests whose purpose is to reveal genetic disorders are generally done to allow parents to have the option to terminate a pregnancy, and should not be performed [certainly not on a routine basis, in unique cases a Rav should be consulted].

Your question seems to somewhat in between. If in fact the intent of taking these tests is for the sole purpose of providing better care for mother and/or child a Rav should be consulted to weigh the potential benefits of such a test with it’s potential downside. Ultimately, the health of the mother and child is the top priority.

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