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Noninvasive Prenatal Testing is a Safe Way to Screen for Genetic Abnormalities

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Pregnant woman

(Greyerbaby, Pixabay)

26 June 2017. Noninvasive prenatal testing is a way for parents to screen their unborn child for a variety of chromosomal anomalies. In the past screening an unborn child for genetic abnormalities was a much more dangerous process since it required the extraction of amniotic fluid from the protective sac that the unborn child is in. Anytime you use an invasive procedure such as Amniocentesis there are going to be risks involved. Still many parents would choose to have this test done if they were considered to be high risk for having a child with genetic abnormalities. Some people may question the ethics involved in screening for genetic abnormalities which may lead parents to choose to terminate the pregnancy. However, when you consider the quality of life that a child with severe genetic abnormalities may have, then the prospect should seem much more reasonable to most people.

How noninvasive prenatal testing is done

Unlike the more risky Amniocentesis noninvasive prenatal testing doesn’t involve disrupting the delicate sac surrounding the baby. Instead a small blood sample is taken that contains both the mother’s blood and the unborn child’s blood. Once the sample is taken it is sent to a lab where they use a cell free DNA extraction kit to recover genetic material from the blood, which can then be screened for various genetic anomalies. If a woman is interested in having this type of noninvasive prenatal testing done then she should discuss it with her doctor and set up the screening once they are at least 10 weeks pregnant.

Once the blood sample is taken results are usually available about 2 weeks later, at which point the parents will be informed if there were any problems detected.

The biggest advantage of this type of prenatal testing is of course the safety of both mother and child. In the more invasive amniocentesis there are many risks involved that could prove to be very problematic. These risks include inducing early labor, damaging the fetus with the needle that is used to extract the amniotic fluid, causing respiratory issues for the unborn child, and also the risk of Rehsus disease for the mother. On top of those risks there is also the issue of having to use a local anesthetic since inserting a needle deep into the body of the mother and be quite painful.

What genetic abnormalities does noninvasive prenatal testing screen for?

  1. Down Syndrome
  2. Trisomy 18
  3. Trisomy 13
  4. Trisomy 16
  5. Trisomy 22
  6. Triploidy

While noninvasive prenatal testing is not as thorough as amniocentesis, it is also a much safer option. There is literally no risk to the mother or unborn child making this type of testing something that every set of parents should consider. If a woman is interested in having this type of testing done then she should speak to her doctor and have the test scheduled once she has reached a minimum of 10 weeks into her pregnancy.

What are some of the reasons that someone would opt to have noninvasive prenatal testing?

While anyone can elect to have noninvasive prenatal screening done it is especially important for parents that are at a higher risk of having a child with genetic abnormalities. For example if a couple has already had a child with Down Syndrome or any other type of genetic abnormalities then the parents should definitely have this screening done. Another risk factor involves having a mother that is older than normal child bearing years since the chances of a problem will be quite a bit higher than they would be for a younger mother. Another major risk factor is if the mother has Rh negative blood and her child has Rh positive blood this could result in antibodies being produced that could prove to be problematic.

Is noninvasive prenatal testing the right choice for me?

In the past invasive procedures such as amniocentesis made screening for genetic abnormalities a much more risky procedure than it is today. Because of that only high risk cases were recommended to be screened. The good news is that today noninvasive prenatal testing poses no risk whatsoever to either the mother or the child so there really isn’t a valid reason to not have it done. So whether or not you are considered high risk it really does make sense to have your child screened. If anything else screening your child will give you the peace of mind of knowing that your child will likely be a happy and healthy one.

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