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My genetic screening test showed abnormal levels of alpha feto-protein (AFP).

Does that mean that my baby will have birth defects?

Answer: Probably not. Alpha feto-protein (AFP) test results do not indicate that there is any problem with the baby, only that there is a slightly higher risk that there may be a problem (studies have shown that at least 15 out of 16 of babies who have positive AFP tests do not any serious problems). But even if your baby does have "birth defects," God has a good plan for his or her life.

A normal ultrasound from a skilled technician will often show that it is very unlikely (less than 1 chance out of 1000) that the baby is genetically abnormal. One woman said:

"There are, however, several characteristics that are common to Downs' babies that a skilled ultrasound technician can look for. My technician measured the femur (usually short in Downs' Syndrome babies), checked the number of blood vessels in the umbilical cord (Downs' babies sometimes have one fewer), checked the width of the forehead (usually wider for a Downs' baby), and checked the heart (apparently, Downs' babies are more likely to suffer from heart defects). A finding that none of these characteristics are present does not guarantee a healthy baby, but it may provide some reassurance, particularly in a case where the AFP reading is only borderline low."

Here's some statistics about elevated AFP and normal ultrasounds:

Physician-researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, after studying 87,584 pregnancies, reported that an elevated AFP [alpha-feto-protein] level in conjunction with a normal ultrasound scan implies a less than 0.1 percent chance that the baby will have one of the four most common birth defects. In light of the finding that amniocentisis itself carries a 0.5 to 1.5 percent chance of terminating a pregnancy (Robin J.R. Blatt, Prenatal Tests), the researchers have concluded that "many women may choose not to have an amniocentisis when informed that the risk of pregnancy loss is substantially greater than the likelihood of finding an anomaly". (New England Journal of Medicine 323, No. 9, Aug 30, 1990)

If your feel that you would be unable to provide adequate care for your baby because of genetic problems or birth defects, many families are waiting to adopt a child with special needs. Please let your child live, whether or not you are able to be the child's mother.

One woman contacted us recently, intending to abort her baby because an AFP test supposedly showed that her baby had Down syndrome. To make a long story short, the AFP test was wrong, and her baby is alive and well (and the baby's mother is thankful she didn't abort this precious child).

Please, contact us if you are considering abortion for any reason. We want to help.

(Some of the above information was excerpted from the Misc-Kids newsgroup)

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The LifeHouse is not a medical facility. LifeHouse personnel are here to help you, but are not medical practitioners in any manner. If you need a definitive answer to your medical questions, please contact a medical practitioner.