Friday, May 08, 2015


The other day I blogged about my private scan, and the joy of it, but also my misgivings about the way private healthcare uses fearmongering to boost profits - in this instance, by telling pregnant women that "time was running out" for them to get tests not routinely offered by the NHS.

These misgivings are reinforced when I'm on forums with parents-to-be from other countries who are dependent on less-than-stellar private healthcare packages and are having to approach all tests from a position of "can we afford it?"

So I feel wonderfully lucky to have the NHS, offering testing and screening and scanning and measuring for all sorts of things. Obviously (I hope obviously) I'm entirely against the idea of aborting a foetus for having a disability. On the other hand, I think it's a damn good idea to know if there's a treatable medical issue endangering the life of the mother or the baby. On the other other hand, screening tests are imperfect (screening determines only likely/unlikely, secondary testing is required to obtain a yes/no) and being told your pregnancy is "high risk" for something can cause a great deal of often-unnecessary worry. On the other other other hand, I can really see the logic of being able to research and prepare ahead of time for a baby which will have complex needs from birth...

It's an incredibly tangled and emotive issue, and one that it's very difficult to discuss without encountering distressing invective about disability, abortion, women's rights to make decision about their own bodies, shaming, blaming, name-calling and all sorts of other unsavouriness.

Weirdly, for me the decision has been made vastly simpler by being disabled. I know ahead of time that when I get past, say, week 38 of 40, I'm going to become difficult. At the absolute very minimum, once the baby is born and I'm on the ward, I'm going to need my wheelchair and/or walking frame beside the bed - and every disabled person reading knows that hospitals don't like you bringing your own (I think it's a philosophical problem as much as a space and hygiene issue). When I use that wheelchair or walking frame to get to the loo, I'm going to need the staff on the ward to understand that it's not appropriate to tell me that having had a baby doesn't make me disabled and to just walk properly. I may have to determine whether my PA counts as a visitor because while I'm wiped out I'll need advocacy. There's all sorts of stuff, none of it insurmountable, but all of it needing to be addressed.

So, up until the point at which I really really need to raise my head above the parapet and start being (what I fear will be construed as) fussy and awkward, I feel I should be as compliant as possible with the non-invasive testing. Build up my credit, sort of thing. For every single test, the accompanying leaflet reminds you that you have the right to refuse, but I feel that it will serve me better not to have "refused testing!!!" or worse, "has internet access" written on my notes, you know?