CVS (chorionic villus sampling) is a test that is done to see if your baby may be born with certain kinds of serious health problems.
CVS is usually done between weeks 10 and 12 of a woman's pregnancy. But it's not a routine test. Your doctor may recommend it if a fetal ultrasound and blood tests suggest that your chances of having a baby with a genetic disorder or birth defect are higher than average. Or you may already know that your chances are higher because of your age and family history.
Chorionic villi are tiny finger-shaped growths in the placenta. The genetic material in these cells is the same as that in the baby's cells. Early in your pregnancy, a doctor can take a sample of these cells and check them for certain health problems.
Chorionic villus sampling can tell you if your baby may be at risk for having:
Even if the results from your CVS are normal, it doesn't guarantee that your baby will be born healthy. No test can do that. For example, CVS can't find many common problems, such as defects of the heart, stomach, intestines, or brain and spine (neural tube defect). A blood test (alpha-fetoprotein test) may be done early in your second trimester to check for some of these defects.
There is another test that can be done during your second trimester that looks for both genetic disorders and neural tube defects. This test is called amniocentesis. It's usually done between weeks 15 and 20 of your pregnancy.
Some women choose to wait until they can have amniocentesis. Others choose to have CVS in their first trimester. If it shows a serious problem, they have more time to make decisions about their pregnancy.
Chorionic villi cells can be collected in one of two ways. During the test, your doctor may:
The doctor uses ultrasound to guide the catheter or needle to the right spot.
The test can tell you if your baby may be born with certain kinds of serious health problems. Many parents are not prepared to care for a baby who is sick or has a birth defect. Information that you get from this test can help you and your partner plan for the future.
If the test finds that your baby has a genetic disorder or a birth defect, you and your partner may be faced with a tough decision about whether to continue the pregnancy. It may be helpful to talk with your doctor and a genetic counselor. They can help you understand your baby's health problem and what to expect when he or she is born.
Results from the test can also help you decide where to have your baby. If your baby will need surgery or special care, you can plan to have your baby in a hospital that has special services for newborns, such as a neonatal intensive care unit.
A CVS test has some risks. You'll have to weigh the benefit of knowing if something might be wrong with your baby against the risks of having the test.
There is a small chance that the test may cause you to have a miscarriage. This means that you could lose your baby after you have the test. But when the test is done by highly trained doctors, the risk of having a miscarriage is small.
Other risks include:
Before you decide to have CVS, you might think about:
Your doctor may advise you to have CVS if:
|Have CVS||Don't have CVS|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"My doctor talked to me about the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome. I understand that at my age, the risk starts to go up. I had a second cousin with Down syndrome, so I know what that's like. I would end the pregnancy if it turned out the baby had it, so I am going to have CVS and find out."
— Georgia, age 35
"My doctor told me there is a risk of having a baby with problems because of my age. But testing wouldn't change my mind. It has taken me 5 years to get pregnant. I won't do anything that might cause me to lose the baby."
— Patricia, age 39
"My husband and I are Jewish, so we had genetic testing and found out we are both carriers of Tay-Sachs disease. We will definitely have CVS to find out if our baby has it. We want children but not if they will have that awful disease. If this pregnancy doesn't work out, we will try again."
— Sabrina, age 32
"I want to find out if my baby has any problems so I can be prepared. But no matter what, I wouldn't end the pregnancy, so I am going to wait and have amnio. I had it done with my second child. I feel more comfortable having it again instead of a different test, and I don't need to find out in the first trimester."
— Coco, age 43
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to have CVS
Reasons not to have CVS
I want to have the test, because I'm worried that something might be wrong with my baby.
I'm not worried that something might be wrong with my baby.
I want to know if my baby has a birth defect so I have time to prepare to care for a child with special needs.
Knowing that my baby has a birth defect won't change the way I plan to care for my child.
I want to know if my baby has a birth defect so I have time to decide if I want to continue my pregnancy.
Knowing that my baby has a birth defect won't change my plans to carry my baby to term.
I'm not afraid of the needle or catheter that is used to do the test.
I don't like needles or catheters.
I'm not worried about how much CVS costs.
I don't have insurance, and I can't afford to pay for the test myself.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
NOT having CVS
1. Can a CVS test guarantee that your baby will be born healthy?
2. Does CVS have some risks?
3. Should all pregnant women have CVS?
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Siobhan M. Dolan, MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics|