Gillian Rodgers, 41, from East Grinstead in West Sussex, has two children: James, 4, and Emily, who was born in October 2015. Gillian was the first person to be offered the IONA test on the NHS when she was 13 weeks pregnant.
I was 40 when I fell pregnant with our second child, so I knew there was a risk of complications.
When I went for my 12-week scan at East Surrey Hospital the doctor told me I had a one in 16 chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome and recommended I have an amniocentesis procedure.
That was a shock and immediately I felt huge concern. I’d had my first baby when I was 37 and the odds of Down’s were much longer, so I hadn’t worried.
This time around, there were suddenly so many things to consider: were we going to have a child with special needs? Could we cope with that?
I talked it over with my husband and we decided that I would have the amniocentesis. On the morning of the appointment I was feeling very anxious.
But when we arrived at St George’s hospital a midwife took me into a side room and told me that I was the first woman in the UK to be offered the IONA test.
That was the first time we’d heard that this new test was an option. I felt enormously relieved, and it was such an easy decision to make. In fact, I’d call it a no-brainer.
Faced with the choice between a needle in my uterus or a simple blood test with accurate results, there was no contest.
Until that moment, I don’t think I’d realised quite how worried I’d been about the amniocentesis.
Although it’s only a small 1% risk of miscarriage, the worry is still there at the back of your mind.
I’d read somewhere that the amniocentesis test equates to about 400 miscarriages a year in the UK which was frightening. I was also worried by the experience itself: what would it feel like, would it hurt?
Now all those concerns had gone. I had the IONA blood test and the results were back in five working days from a laboratory in the UK, which was a quicker wait than if I’d had the amniocentesis.
When you’re worried about what may be in store, it helped a lot to not have to wait very long.
We got the all-clear and that was wonderful. I think if the result had gone the other way we would have continued with the pregnancy anyway but there would have been so many things to consider. What would the implications have been for our eldest child James, for example?
Unfortunately, the rest of my pregnancy wasn’t straightforward.
The placenta didn’t work properly so my daughter suffered restricted growth.
I had a routine scan at 37 weeks which showed that the placenta was failing and her body was starting to shut down. The medical team induced labour there and then.
Emily Leah was born six hours later and to our delight was fine, albeit a skinny little thing! At just 4 lb 12 ounces she was tiny but healthy.
To our immense relief she did well from day one and now, at six months old, you’d never know she was half-starved in the womb. She’s in perfect health.
Emily’s a good baby and sleeps well and we’re starting the weaning process now. The only time she gets angry is when she’s hungry and I wonder whether that’s a result of the problems she had in the womb.
The IONA test was the right decision for us. Looking back, it was a stressful pregnancy. We knew that Emily would be our second and last child, and I’m happy that I won’t go through another pregnancy. I wouldn’t want to experience that worry again.