Prenatal Genetic Testing: The Choice to Know More

9 Jun

Photo by Flickr user Scott McLeod Liddle

I can still remember my first radio skills class. Kathryn Gretsinger, veteran CBC radio journalist, was standing at the front of the class, playing a story for us.

The story was about a woman’s grief, her desperation. It brought the listener into her world; it revealed a side of her humanity that was so disarming it reminded me of how much we all share despite being from different countries, speaking different languages.

But what struck me the most was the power of the medium. It was intimate yet fleeting, undoubtedly concrete and clear, but still leaving much to the imagination. It was like watching a movie with your eyes closed. I was sold.

Over the last year of my degree, I worked with Kathryn to craft a story about women, their children, and the choices they must make early on in pregnancy. It was an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only did I learn from the women and experts I interviewed, I also gained valuable insight into what it takes to tell a compelling story, a story with heart.

I can’t thank Kathryn, and the women I interviewed, enough for their time and patience. But I can thank them in some small way: I can share this radio documentary with you.

Monica Tanaka

Photo by Flickr user teppei1111

UBC Student journalist

Originally published on the

It’s a choice that many pregnant women struggle to make. How much do you need to know about your baby before it is born?

For some women, knowing more would not be helpful. It could be a source of stress and anxiety. For others, the results from a genetic test could be reassuring; it’s a way of knowing and being prepared for what could come. It’s a deeply personal choice. No one can tell a woman what’s right for her.

There are many factors that influence a woman’s decision on whether to have prenatal genetic testing. For starters, the science behind the tests can be difficult to understand. Then there are the ethical questions raised by the test itself. Is it discriminatory? Is it sending a message?

To explore these questions, Monica Tanaka spoke to the people whose lives are in the thick of it. She talked to pregnant women who chose to have the test, and to those who chose not to, as well as to genetic counsellors and a bioethicist. The interviews, and the process of making sense of the issues, took place over nearly six months.

Click to listen to the audio documentary that takes you into the lives of two pregnant women who had to make choices about prenatal genetic testing. You’ll also hear from the experts as they delve into the details that stem from the process of offering these tests.

Correction: The laboratory mentioned in the documentary is the Prenatal Biochemistry lab, not the Molecular Genetics lab, at BC Women’s and Children’s Hospital.


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