Letter: 'Elderly' mothers and Down's syndrome tests

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was interested to read Janet Daniels's letter (18 August) about the introduction of the Bart's screening test to aid in the detection of Down's syndrome babies.

As an 'elderly' mother I certainly agree with Ms Daniels's suggestion that tests such as amniocentesis should still be available to older women. I had such a test in my 40th year when I was expecting my first child and, having been made only too aware of the statistical risks of carrying a Down's syndrome child at that age, only really began to 'enjoy' my pregnancy when I knew my child was all right.

But as Ms Daniels points out, by the time the results of an amniocentesis are available, the pregnancy is relatively advanced. When I became pregnant again, at 42, I opted for chorionic villus sampling (CVS) rather than an amniocentesis. Although the miscarriage rate is said to be higher (two in 100 against one in 100), the test is carried out at nine to 10 weeks and the results are available within days.

If, therefore, a woman decides to terminate a Down's syndrome pregnancy, at least at such an early stage she can be spared some of the anguish of a later operation.

Yours faithfully,

ELIZABETH M. PEARCE

Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

19 August

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