Mums-to-be to be offered safer tests for Down’s Syndrome

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Pregnant women are set to be offered new and safer tests for Down’s syndrome, according to a Government announcement.
While the current test has a relatively high risk of miscarriage, the new test will lower the chance of that happening.
The new test, called NIPT, is non invasive, and will reduce the need for women to have more invasive tests, including an amniocentesis, which involves removing and testing a small sample of cells from the amniotic fluid surrounding a foetus while they are in the womb.
Having an amniocentesis test brings with it a 1 per cent chance of a miscarriage and around one in 1,000 women are at risk of developing a serious infection.
Currently, all mums-to-be in England have blood and ultrasound tests in the first three months of their pregnancy to check for any problems.
Women who are deemed to have a high risk of their baby having a genetic condition like Down’s are then asked whether they would like an invasive test to find out.
However this new test will give women the chance to decide to have a non-invasive blood test instead, which will check for traces of chromosomal syndromes.
The new test is due to be made available to pregnant women within the next three years. First, staff, who will be responsible for administering and analysing the new tests, will need to receive proper training.
Health Minister Philip Dunne has said the Government is committed to offering women the safest screening tests available.
It has now approved the use of new, non-invasive tests for Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes.
He said: “By offering non-invasive prenatal testing, fewer pregnant women will go on to be offered diagnostic testing which carries a risk of miscarriage.”
The rolling out of the tests has been welcomed by support groups, including Antenatal Results and Choices.
Jane Fisher, director of the organisation, said: “Screening for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome is optional and, for women who choose to have it, the provision of NIPT will mean fewer will face the difficult prospect of risky invasive testing.
“The move also goes some way to dealing with the current inequity that most women can only access this more accurate screening method if they have the means to pay for it in the private sector.”
However, the test has come in for criticism from those who fear it could lead to more planned abortions.

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