Published Thursday, 21 March 2013
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Catherine Marmion describes her second pregnancy as normal and without complication. But just hours after an emergency caesarean section, she suspected baby Eve had Down's syndrome.
Paediatricians also had concerns and when Eve was a week old, blood tests confirmed she had the condition.
"It was a shock, a devastating blow to the family," explained Catherine. "We had not got the baby that we were expecting."
"I was 30 when I had Eve, I thought that I was too young and Down's syndrome was not something that I thought I should worry about."
Catherine and her husband Owen were not offered screening during the pregnancy, and they believe it could have helped them to prepare - both mentally and emotionally - for Eve's arrival.
The condition is one of the most common chromosomal abnormalities in the world, and Catherine said she is shocked that a screening policy that is in place in England, Scotland and Wales, has not been extended to Northern Ireland.
I would have loved to have had the choice to decide whether or not I would like to be screened for Down's syndrome.
"It's not a rare condition, and to not screen for it is remiss," she explained.
"I think we are not being afforded the same quality of care that's given to our counterparts in the rest of the UK."
The Marmion family believe the tests would have helped them, and other new parents, to welcome their baby in a happy state".
"It would not have been a shock. When is a good time to hear that your baby has Down's syndrome or any abnormality?" commented Catherine.
"It's never a good time, but I would have been better prepared than being in a hospital bed after having an emergency section, to then be given this blow that my baby had not come in the perfect little parcel that we had all hoped for."
Catherine wrote to the Department of Health to ask why the test, which is routine in other parts of the UK, is not practiced in Northern Ireland.
The department replied that it plans to consider the screening process later this year, but there is currently no Northern Ireland-wide policy on whether Down's syndrome screening should be offered.
In the letter to Catherine, a department spokesperson stated that pregnant women in other parts of the UK can make an "informed choice as to whether or not they wish to continue with the pregnancy".
"Within the law in Northern Ireland foetal anomaly in itself is not a grounds for a legal termination for pregnancy," the letter continued.
But for now, the Marmion family are continuing to push for the tests, in the hope that other families will be further prepared.