Finding out that there is something wrong with your baby is heartbreaking, but an early diagnosis gives you extra time for preparing for a child with disabilities.
Many health issues, like autism or learning problems, are not detectable until the child starts developing. But, recent advances in prenatal testing make it possible for parents to know about many health issues and disabilities before their child is even born. This extra time can help new parents in preparing for a child with disabilities.
There are several options available for prenatal testing. Some of the most common tests include:
- Blood tests: Blood draws are likely to occur throughout your pregnancy. Although a blood test doesn't give much information about the baby's health, it does provide the doctor with valuable information about how the pregnancy is progressing and any health issues with the mother.
- Ultrasound: Traditionally, most parents look forward to ultrasounds to find out their baby's gender, but this is an important tool in detecting problems with the baby. A skilled ultrasound technician can use the images to confirm the viability of the pregnancy and to verify how far along the pregnancy is. A visual check of the baby can also identify growth problems, heart defects, or irregularity in limbs and major organs.
- Amniocentesis: Though common, an amniocentesis is usually performed in higher-risk pregnancies or when there is already a reason to suspect a problem. Amnios are performed using an ultrasound-guided needle. The doctor removes a small amount of amniotic fluid, which will later be tested in a lab for genetic problems like Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis.
- Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): Similar to an amniocentesis, CVS removes a small amount of tissue from the placenta to test it for genetic abnormalities.
- Triple or Quad screen: Performed during the second trimester, this analysis of the mother's blood can detect several chromosomal defects, including Down syndrome and spina bifida.
Preparing for a Child with Disabilities
Finding out that your child will have a disability is difficult for any parent, especially expectant ones. On top of dealing with the hormones and expectations of pregnancy, families also need to learn about treatment options for the child.
If you have recently found out that your baby will be born with a health issue, there are a number of things you can do now to help with preparing for a child with disabilities:
- Start your research. Although the Internet has a lot of valuable information, take it with a grain of salt. Remember that many of the most publicized cases are examples of either the best or worst case scenarios. Most families will find that their experiences are somewhere in the middle.
- Ask your doctor to put you in touch with a hospital-based social worker who has experience dealing with your child's specific condition. Most medical centers have several social workers on staff who can help you find local resources and can assist you in navigating medical issues.
- Check your area for support groups specific to your child's condition. If possible, it's a great idea to meet an older child with the same condition. Networking with other parents can also help you find specialists in your area.
- The time leading up to your child's birth allows you to find out what your insurance covers and if you need to apply for a secondary insurance. Most health insurance plans cover a child from the moment of his birth, so initial treatments should be taken care of. Some birth defects, like heart problems, may be covered under state insurance programs, which can reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
- One of the most important things you can do after your baby is diagnosed with a health problem is to find the right treatment option. This includes touring local facilities, meeting with surgeons, and learning about alternative or complementary treatments.
Everyone hopes to have a healthy baby, but if you find out your baby will be born with health problems, you can use this time to prepare your family.