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Cat StrawbridgeNIPTPregnancyWomen's Health

Cat on NIPT

Cat on NIPT

May 25, 2021

As part of our series on NIPT (Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing), we’ve asked Cat Strawbridge, fertility patient and host of the Finally Pregnant podcast, to talk about her experiences and her thoughts on the subject.

As part of our series on NIPT (Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing), we’ve asked Cat Strawbridge, fertility patient and host of the Finally Pregnant podcast, to talk about her experiences and her thoughts on the subject.

Having spent 6 years trying to conceive, a time which included multiple rounds of fertility treatment and, sadly, pregnancy loss, I had had my fair share of medical appointments and hand holding, even before I was finally pregnant.

It is incredibly reassuring to be supported through what is a difficult and emotional time when you’re trying to grow your family. You also become very accustomed to knowing way more than you ever expected about your cycles, eggs, follicles, sperm, Wanda – as many fertility patients refer to her (more commonly known as an ultrasound probe for internal vaginal ultrasounds) – and myriad other acronyms and medical language. It really is a whole new world!

If we are lucky enough for our treatment to work, we then enter a new anxiety level we need to navigate.

We have been through so much to get here, we’ve put in hours, days, months even years for those two lines saying we’re pregnant. But, having been watched so closely through the trying-to-conceive phase, fertility patients often miss this interaction with health professionals once pregnant. A recent survey showed that 69% of fertility clinics don’t offer ongoing support once pregnant. Whilst our NHS maternity pathway is great, it offers significantly less appointments throughout the pregnancy than we might want.

How can we help ourselves?

We can mitigate this anxiety by continuing to gather information about our pregnancy over and above what might be available to us on the NHS. One of the ways we can do this is to have more scans (I averaged one every 10 days through the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy). Another way is to find out more through chromosomal testing.

There are different kinds of chromosomal testing, but the safest are Non-Invasive Prenatal Tests, or NIPT.

Isn’t NHS Testing Enough?

For some, the testing available on the NHS might be enough. But for those who want to quench that thirst for knowledge further and to hopefully recreate some of the reassurance we felt during our treatment, we need more.

When I asked my community of over 10,000 people on instagram they gave the following reasons for wanting more detailed chromosomal testing.

  • Handholding through treatment

  • The wait for NHS testing was too long

  • Wanted the most accurate screening possible

  • Age

  • Reassurance

  • To find out the sex

  • Anxiety around previous poor quality embryos

  • Anxiety due to previous losses

In my case, I definitely planned to have further testing. However, it turns out in rare cases it’s just not possible. We had a single embryo transfer, but our embryo split and we were expecting identical twins. Sadly, when we went for our scan at 10 weeks, one of our babies had stopped developing which meant the results of any testing would be void. It is an uncommon complication and one that led us to explore routes such as amniocentesis which is much more invasive than a blood draw or scan needed for a NIPT test. Amniocentesis comes with a 1 in 100 risk of miscarriage due to infection. It was a risk we decided against taking. The result of these events left me even more bereft of that joyful pregnant feeling I had so hoped for.

As we head into further treatment, I am optimistic about expanding our family further. And if we are lucky enough to get pregnant again, I anticipate that we will once again look for that additional information and support throughout the pregnancy. A NIPT test will be part of that.

Cat Strawbridge is host of the Finally Pregnant podcast. She is a fertility patient and consultant advocating on behalf of those trying to conceive, and pregnant and parenting after infertility and loss. Find out more at www.catstrawbridge.com or head to her instagram @tryingyears.

By Cat Strawbridge, May 2021