A new type of prenatal testing called Non Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) makes is possible to accurately screen for a number of genetic abnormalities just weeks into the pregnancy.
Seeing that blue line on the pregnancy stick can be one of life’s most exciting moments. But with a positive pregnancy reading comes worries about the health of the unborn baby, especially for women over 35, when the risk of genetic problems like Down Syndrome increases significantly.
Until very recently expectant moms had to rely on amniocentesis, blood tests and ultrasounds to provide information about the health of the baby.
Amniocentesis, which involves using a needle to withdraw a small amount of amniotic fluid from the pregnant woman’s uterus, is the most accurate test but also the most invasive. It generally isn’t done until at least 15 weeks pregnancy and carries a small risk of miscarriage.
This is why Dr. Beth Taylor, who runs the NIPT program at Olive Fertility Centre in Vancouver, is so excited about this new option for women. "This test represents a major advancement in prenatal testing. It's the test we've been waiting for." says Dr Taylor.
What makes this test different from currently used early prenatal tests, which include a combination of ultra sound and maternal serum screening, is that it can actually test the DNA of the developing fetus using a simple blood draw from the mother.
This means that it is much more accurate (>99%) than current tests and does not have the high rate of false positives and negatives
Almost all (95%) of the women who are identified as high risk by the traditional screening are carrying a healthy baby. Test errors can lead to a lot of unnecessary worry and anxiety and potentially puts the woman at a small risk for a miscarriage if she decides to have amniocentesis.
The fact that this test is available early on in the pregnancy empowers women and couples with accurate information and choice.
“We are very lucky to have Rachel Butler, an experienced genetic counselor, at Olive. Says Dr Taylor. “Rachel meets with all our NIPT patients, helping them understand their options; interpret the results and guiding them on the next steps."
For Dr Taylor one of the most important things that this test can provide is peace of mind “In most cases NIPT can relieve the expectant mom’s anxiety by reliably informing her that at least these major chromosome abnormalities are not likely a problem for her. It’s a very reassuring test because the great majority of women who have the test will have a normal result.”
Are you confused about all the different prenatal tests out there? To find out more about how NIPT compares to other prenatal tests and whether it is right for you, join Dr. Beth Taylor and Dr. Rachel Butler for a free seminar.
Tuesday April 8th
7:00 pm -8:00pm
OLIVE FERTILITY CENTRE
400 East Tower, 555 West 12th Avenue, 4th Floor