Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) involves removing and testing a small sample of cells from the placenta. It is carried out between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy and involves a needle being inserted through your tummy. There is a slightly higher risk of miscarriage with CVS as opposed to amniocentesis, but that is carried out at a slightly later stage of pregnancy. In terms of statistics, 1-2% women suffer a loss after CVS, so 1 in every 50-100. However, it is widely accepted that it is difficult to prove whether a miscarriage is a direct result of CVS or would have happened anyway. Bottom line, it happens.
There’s also a risk of infection, as with any procedure, or getting an inadequate sample and having to go through it again.
An agonising decision and one that we would have to live with afterwards. After so many years of trying to get pregnant, we could now be jeopardising everything. It was not something we undertook lightly. But weighing it up, we decided we needed to find out. The risk is real but relatively small when you think about it with a clear head and we would have found it impossible just to wait and see.
True to form, once we had made up our minds, I was quite sanguine about having the test itself. It helped that the surgeon was a top expert in the field with incredibly high success rates. He was just really matter of fact with us. He told us that the thresholds for what is deemed ‘high risk’ are always changing and looking at my notes, he reassured us that, in his opinion, it was my ‘great age’ that pushed us into the danger zone. That made me feel a hell of a lot better because I was a pretty fit and active 34 year old with a healthy diet and lifestyle and surely that had to count for something? Anyway, his manner put us at ease. He was confident and reassuring which is exactly what we needed.
They clean your stomach with antiseptic and give you a local anaesthetic before sticking a long thin needle into you with a kind of grabber (syringe) at the end of it. They guide it using ultrasound and it’s fascinating to watch until the thought flashes through your mind that that needle is heading directly for your baby. Like watching Jaws.
In a way, I think it was worse for T who told me afterwards there was blood streaming down all over my belly throughout the procedure. My eyes were glued to the screen watching what was going on, so I didn’t really notice or think about that side of thing as I couldn’t feel it either.
For two days afterwards, they advise you to do nothing and take it easy, with no strenuous activity for the next couple of weeks. I remember it was a really sunny week in April. So I lay in the garden on a lounger whilst T trimmed the hedge and cleaned the windows on the greenhouse. I was so incredibly careful over that time and followed all the advice not to over-exert myself. It almost felt over the top, like not carrying the grocery shopping in from the car, but we weren’t taking any chances.
Another wait. We thought we had got the hardest wait out of the way but this wait was huge, hanging over everything we did. As the sample needed to be sent to Bristol for testing, it would take several days. I think we were told one to two weeks. I remember visualising it being put in van, driven up the M5, getting to the lab…
I was back at work when the phonecall came. I took it outside. I remember standing on the grassy bank, phone sweaty in my hands, heart pounding, as I was told that we had the all clear. No Down’s syndrome, no Edward’s syndrome no Patau’s syndrome. It’s hard to describe the sheer feeling of overwhelming relief.
But, at this point, we were still in the danger zone for miscarriage. Then the two week milestone came and went. All was well and an enormous weight lifted. Joy and love. We thanked our lucky stars again and again.
It took a long while for me to relax and enjoy being pregnant, but I got there.
We never took what we have for granted.
The silver lining to the whole experience was that, just three months in, we found out that we were going to have a daughter.