The NIPT Blood Test – Why it should be offered to all pregnant women!

Before you read on I must warn you that some of you, my readers, may not like the contents of this post. It may come across as too controversial to some, and while I appreciate that it may upset some people, it is not intentional. But I have a viewpoint about the NIPT Blood Test that I want to share. So here goes.

This post stems from news in January (15th) that the NHS is backing a safer blood test for Down’s Syndrome which could soon be offered to all pregnant women deemed to be at risk of having a child with Down’s Syndrome, Edward’s or Patau Syndrome.

NIPT Blood Test

Currently pregnant women who fall into certain high risk categories are offered additional tests by the NHS between 10-14 or 14-20 weeks. The tests at 10-14 weeks are a combined blood test with a nuchal translucency scan (which I was NOT offered by the NHS in Wales). The results of these two tests, combined with your age are used to determine the risk of your baby having Down’s, Edward’s or Patau Syndrome.

Different blood screening is offered between 14-20 weeks called the quad tests (I was offered these). This test only screens for Down’s Syndrome and is not as accurate as the combined test. What should be noted is that these tests cannot tell for certain whether your baby has one of the chromosomal syndromes, they only indicate whether you have a higher or lower risk of having a baby with one of the mentioned conditions. Currently the only way to tell for certain is to undergo invasive, diagnostic tests such as an amniocentesis or chroionic villus sampling (CVS), both of which carry a 1:100 chance of a miscarriage.

The new test mentioned in the news in January is a non-invasive prenatal screening test which is a simple blood test, which can be taken from 10 weeks gestation, called the NIPT Blood Test. The principle behind it is that there is a certain amount of fetal cell-free DNA present in the mother’s blood which can be separated and can undergo chromosomal testing, for Down’s, Edward’s and Patau Syndromes. If this test result shows a low risk result it means the chance of your baby having one of the conditions is less than 1:10,000.

A high risk result means the probability your baby has one of the conditions is greater than 99%. The NIPT Blood Test is much more accurate than the screening tests offered by the NHS at the moment and as it is non-invasive, unlike a CVS or amino test, it carry no risk of miscarriage. Also, as it can be done as early as 10 weeks gestation it allows parents more time to absorb news of a higher risk result and to receive the help and support they may need in deciding whether to continue with the pregnancy or not.

So why am I writing about all of this? Because I had the NIPT Blood Test at a private clinic. As I was over 35 years of age when I fell pregnant, and knew of the increased risks due to my age, I wanted all the tests I could have to check everything was ok with my baby. As mentioned, I wasn’t offered the nuchal translucency scan, only the quads which were pencilled in for 16 weeks gestation. So I had to wait 8 weeks from first seeing my midwife to find out the results of the quads tests. That felt like a very long time to me.

My husband and I had long discussed what we would do if we were told we had a higher risk result and our only option then would have been an amniocentesis, with all the risks it carried. So when I heard a radio advert for the Harmony Blood Test (now known as the NIPT Blood Test) at Innermost Secrets in Cardiff, we very quickly called the clinic to find out more. This was two and a half years ago and it was only one of two places in the whole of the UK offering this test. It also carried a price tag of £750 at the time but we decided to do it to know as early as possible if our baby had any possible chromosomal abnormality. Money wasn’t an issue when it came to knowing how our baby was doing and we were fortunate to be able to afford the test privately.

At 10+5 weeks I had the blood test and one week later the clinic rang to say our baby’s risk of having one of the conditions was less than 1:10,000. In other words it was almost impossible the baby would have one of the conditions tested for. It was such a huge relief and as a bonus we found out the sex of our baby before we were even 11 weeks pregnant. So, 6 weeks before the additional NHS testing was due to start we got the all-clear and began to relax and enjoy our pregnancy as we got our heads around the fact we were having a little boy!

Now, I can understand why people, especially parents of Down’s Syndrome children, may hate the idea of this test. Some may even go as far as to say it’s playing God but in my mind every expecting parent has a right to know what they may be facing in the future and as early in their pregnancy as possible. And no one should be put at higher risk of undergoing a miscarriage if it can be avoided at all.

Don’t get me wrong this test isn’t without its faults. On occasion there may not be sufficient fetal cell-free DNA present to do the tests. And if a high risk result comes back then an amniocentesis or CVS will still be offered to obtain a definitive diagnosis. The NIPT blood Test, as mentioned, is more accurate than the current NHS blood tests with low risk numbers going from less than 1:150 (NHS) to 1:10,000 (NIPT). These statistical figures are what drove me to have it as there is a huge difference between them.

And I’ll be very honest here, had we had a high risk result and confirmation of a chromosomal abnormality we would have chosen not to continue with the pregnancy. We had discussed this at length and it would have been hard but deep down we knew that decision would be the right one for us, had we had to have made it. I won’t go into the details of why here. Suffice to say they are personal, between my husband and I.

But getting this more accurate test done at an earlier stage than the NHS tests meant we had the time to digest any news, and anyone else who may have it will have the time and opportunity to discuss options at length before the pregnancy gets to a later stage. If counselling and support are required, couples can get it early. And if they choose to end the pregnancy, this too can happen earlier than if they needed to wait for quad tests and a further amnio or CVS on the current NHS schedule.

In my opinion this new NIPT screening test is a good thing and the sooner it’s available to all women on the NHS the better. No one should be forced to get it done privately. It may result in a slight rise in abortions but conversely it may also reduce the number of invasive tests being done, which in turn will reduce the number of unnecessary miscarriages.

I firmly believe it is every couples right to decide how they wish to proceed with their pregnancies and if the NIPT Blood Test allows them to make better informed decisions then why see it as a negative thing. To me it’s a good thing and a step in the right direction. Current tests are not accurate enough and we need to move forward when technology allows us to.

Sorry for the long post but I needed to write about something I feel strongly about and unfortunately you’re my audience. Thank you if you got this far!

Cath x

 

A Letter to My Body

Dear Body,

You and I have had a love/hate relationship since we were about 25. You see, before we met BattleDad and moved in with him we were a slim size 10 and had our pick of the clothes rails. However, as we settled into coupledom and developed our love for wine our lovely slim size 10 became a curvy, generous size 14, veering on a 16. To some this may not sound too bad but for our 5’ 2” frame it wasn’t a great look. Out went the nice small clothes and in came the 14’s and sometimes 16’s.

From shopping for nice clothes we often only went shopping for comfortable clothes, and things that suited our size 10 frame now looked terrible on us in the bigger size. Tops were bought to hide our bulging wine belly which at one point long, before BattleKid, was mistaken for a pregnant belly. You’d think this would have made us do something about it but our downfall wasn’t food so much as it was wine.

BattleMum in Norway in 2012, a curvy size 14.
BattleMum in Norway in 2012, a curvy size 14.

We did diet and lose a few pounds here or there but never got anywhere near a size 12 let alone a 10. We didn’t eat terribly but at times our diet wasn’t fantastic either. But we did enjoy our wine and it has hidden calories after all. Alot of them! We really enjoyed our nights on the couch with BattleDad, chatting, watching TV, drinking wine, eating cheese but in the long run it didn’t do us any favours.

Then something happened…..

We fell pregnant and we were forced to change our habits. Alcohol was put on the back burner and it’s hidden calories banished from our diet. And now that we were growing a little person inside us we became a bit more conscious about what we ate. We limited crisps, our other downfall, and greatly increased our intake of fruit and vegetables. We took our folic acid and prenatal vitamins religiously and switched to drinking decaf tea (we don’t do coffee). Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoyed foods of all sorts but the bad things like takeaways were a rare treat.

As a result we only put on about 11 lbs throughout our whole pregnancy which is pretty good. It was obvious afterwards that the extra stored calories were being taken by BattleKid or used by us, while the good stuff went to BattleKid. We also didn’t take the whole “eating for two”thing to heart so didn’t accumulate any extra weight due to that.

When BattleKid arrived we embarked on our breastfeeding journey and the weight literally fell off us. We went down 2 dress sizes on top and 1-1.5 on bottom and we were 2 stone lighter than our pre-pregnancy weight by the time BattleKid was 4 months old.

Battle Mum with BattleKid, March 2014.  This was the photograph which made famiylycomment on the weight I'd lost since having him.
Battle Mum with BattleKid, March 2014. This was the photograph which made family comment on the weight I’d lost since having him.

We never returned to our old drinking habits and had to continue to eat well to ensure BattleKid’s nutritional needs were met in our breast milk. After only one heavy night of drinking (after BattleKid was weaned onto formula) we gave up alcohol completely and for good, and we’ve never looked back. We still eat well although are a bit less stringent and I think that, coupled with the lack of alcoholic calories, has meant we’ve only put on 4 lbs since our lowest post-pregnancy weight.

My boy and I in July 2014.
My boy and I in July 2014.

It took a while to get our heads around the fact we were smaller and to replace our size 14/16 clothes with smaller ones that fit better. We essentially needed a new wardrobe and even 18 months on there are still one or two size 14’s lurking in our wardrobe. It’s like we still haven’t fully admitted to ourselves that we ARE smaller and appear to be staying that way. There is still a bit of fear in us that we’ll put the weight back on but so long as we’re off alcohol entirely and still eating fairly well I think we’ll remain around the weight we are.

We have become happier in ourselves and despite the stretch marks and complete loss of our breasts thanks to 7 months of breastfeeding, we are mostly content in ourselves again. I don’t think anyone can ever say they are 100% happy with themselves or their body but we’re doing OK. Yes, we’d still like to lose a few more pounds to get a bit lighter but we’re not dieting or trying to lose it. As long as we hover around where we are I think we’ll remain mostly happy.

So for now the love/hate relationship is tipped towards love. At least our belly is no longer mistaken for a pregnant one!

Love Cath x

 

 

My Desk Space 2016

My home pc, which BattleDad built for me 10 years ago, has been getting slower and slower over the last few years, to the point of turning itself off at what always seemed to be the most inconvenient times. I resorted to using a laptop we bought on holidays nearly 2 years ago and blogging from the breakfast counter in the kitchen, but it was not ideal. However that too has been getting slower. So BattleDad kindly offered to build me a new pc to blog from, one capable of dealing with photography editing too. He ordered all the parts before Christmas and built it last month. Aside from one or two photography software programs it’s been ready for a few weeks but my desk in our office hasn’t!

So on a recent Sunday afternoon I blitzed it, finally. It had become a dumping ground for bills, blog products already written about, and all sorts of other crap. I sorted the bills into keep and shred piles, threw out the general rubbish and gave it a good clean.IMG_7238

I moved my screen to the middle, got an organiser in Ikea for bits and bobs, two inspirational poster print and a little plant to brighten up my desk. I have a file underneath for important “keep” bills and BattleKid’s daily nursery diaries but otherwise I’m really happy with it. I am displaying some Snapfish products I got to review on the blog in January and February, and finally fixed my poor Goofy clock who just needs a battery now. Superglue to the rescue!IMG_7239

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IMG_7241

It’s starting to feel like “My Space” again. My desk is ancient, having travelled from the Midlands to Wales, and now our current house, and has seen many days and nights of me playing Everquest 2. Those times are gone but my desk has withstood all the moves thankfully. My chair is about a year old as my last one lost a wheel in our last house move.

As I’ve mentioned I’ve used a few things to make it feel like my own space in our office and they include a 10,000 Ways inspirational print from notonthehighstreet.com costing £12.50, which I put into a white frame myself. I also picked up another inspirational print from notonthehighstreet.com costing £12.50, which I again framed myself. My light is from Ikea (Forsa £15.00) as is my organiser (Kvissle £9.50) and my pen holder is simply a flower-pot also from Ikea (Skurar £2.00). Isn’t Ikea great for all sorts of things! My rose plant is from Waitrose and cost me only £3.00. The only problem with this is I need to remember to water it, particularly if I haven’t been in our home office for a few days! I have been known to neglect house plants in the past. My light bulb vase was from the Science Museum but is no longer available unfortunately.

So there you have it, my little space in our home office which has been predominantly occupied by BattleDad since we moved into this house. I can finally move away from the breakfast counter, out of the kitchen and somewhere I can blog comfortably from. Hopefully this will give me more motivation where the poor blog is concerned.

Wish me luck in my new space,

Cath x

What to pack for 6 days in Portugal

Easter has been traditionally a time when I’ve gone home to Ireland for the long weekend to visit family. However, this year I’m breaking with tradition and heading to an all-together sunnier climate. My parents have been going to Portugal every year in March but normally around the 11th which is my mum’s birthday. However they decided late last year they’d like to go over Easter in order to bring my nephew with them as he’d be off school on holidays.

With that in mind it threw my usual Easter plans into disarray. If my folks weren’t going to be home then I wouldn’t go myself. I didn’t want to miss them so decided to stay at home this year and just chill out. They then said they’d cancel Portugal but I wouldn’t let them, it wouldn’t be fair on them or my nephew to miss out. That’s when BattleDad recently came up with a brilliant idea. Seeing as he usually does a bike trip while I’m away over Easter, why didn’t I just meet my parents in Portugal instead of staying at home on my own with BattleKid? Genius! I called my parents to ask if that would be ok and proceeded to book flights for myself and BattleKid as my mum had secured a 2 bedroom apartment so there would be room for us. We’re on!

Sunrise

As you read this I’m now there enjoying sunshine (I hope) but the week leading up to it has been a bit hectic for me. Firstly I’ve never been to Portugal, let alone in March, so I’ve had no idea what to pack for myself or BattleKid. Do I pack shorts or should I bring trousers? Will it be hot so we only need t-shirts or do we need cardigans and jumpers as well? I rang my dad earlier in the week but he said he wears light trousers out and about, and shorts by the pool so it sounds like both might be needed.

Also, as I’m flying solo with BattleKid I want to bring just one suitcase and the minimum amount of hand luggage than I might normally do when we’re travelling with BattleDad. That means no Trunki stuffed with toys. They’ll need to go into the main case with a few things in the cabin bag to entertain him during the two hour flight. I’ve loaded up his little tablet with plenty of Curious George and Thomas the Tank Engine episodes so hopefully these will do. I’m also bringing snacks to distract him with on board. I did pick him up a monkey backpack so might be able to put a few toys in that.

As he’s now fully weaned onto cow’s milk it means I don’t have to bring formula nor do I need to bring any food in my case for him like I have done in the past. I also only need to bring the minimum amount of nappies as my mum is planning on buying them and swim nappies the day we arrive so that saves a huge amount of space. However, as BattleKid is too big for travel cots now, I’m bringing a toddler blow-up bed so that needs to go into the case.

But as for clothes I’ve been rightly stumped as to what to pack. Not knowing what the weather will be like has been a bit unnerving for me. So I’ve had to pack a mixture. I don’t need to worry about dressy clothes as we won’t be going out late for dinner with BattleKid in tow. We’ll most likely be eating at our apartment or dining early in nearby restaurants. But I do think I’m still probably bringing more than I need as I normally do! I always over pack.

So here’s what I’m bringing with us, in brief:

Mum: 1 jeans, 1 shorts, 1 capri trousers, 8 t-shirts, 2 dressy tops, 1 dress, flip flops, 1 pair of sandal shoes, 1 bikini, 1 swimsuit, 1 pj’s, 1 hoodie, 1 cardigan, 1 hat.

BattleKid: 3 shorts, 2 trousers, 1 hoodie, 8 t-shirts, 2 swim sets, 1 sandal shoes, 2 shorts pj’s, 2 long pj’s, 2 hats.20160320_214617_001

Hand luggage will consist of  a change bag containing 1 change of clothes for BattleKid, tablet, few toys, George, a beaker and snacks, and travel documents. That’s about all I’ll be able to carry on my own! If I’ve forgotten to pack anything I’ll just have to get it when I’m there. And of course, there will be a holiday diaries series when we come back telling you what we got up to out there. Completely unplanned until this week and exciting all the same.

Wish me luck and have a great Easter!

Cath x