Accurate Blood Test For Down's

Research published in January 2011 in the British Medical Journal, the BMJ, shows that a there will soon be a simple DNA blood test available to show if a pregnant woman is carrying a baby wit Down's Syndrome.

Current Tests

At the moment an ultra sound scan plus a blood test gives an indication as to the risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome. The Nuchal ultra sound scan looks at the size of the baby's neck, as babies with Down's Syndrome tend to have more fluid in this area, making their necks thicker than normal. This test needs to be done between the 11th and 14th week of pregnancy. Women who are at high risk, for example, women over the age of 35 or 40, are usually offered this test automatically, If you are concerned for your baby but aren't considered high risk, there are private clinics that offer this scan and blood test for around £160. However some NHS Trusts offer it to all pregnant women regardless, so check before going private. Those women whose tests show that they have a high chance of having a baby with Down's Syndrome, normally go on to have chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or an amniocentesis test (usually done at around 15 -16 weeks). At the moment, about 3-5% of women need to have these invasive tests, which themselves carry a risk of miscarriage of an otherwise healthy baby.

Abortion Option

Some NHS doctors won't let you have one of these identifying tests unless you agree in advance to have an abortion, if the test result proves positive. However, not everybody agrees with abortion in this type of case, but would still like to be tested to able to prepare themselves psychologically for the possibility of having a baby with Down's Syndrome. Of course, most women who discover they are carrying a baby with Down's Syndrome, do choose to have an abortion but not all. The current limit for abortions in the UK is 24 weeks, (Jan 2011) but abortions often aren't carried out after 22 or 20 weeks. In the future, the abortion limit maybe reduced to 20 weeks, so the earlier you can be accurately tested for Down's, the longer time you will have to make your decision.

The New Test

This new blood test uses the latest DNA testing techniques to accurately test for the syndrome. If NHS trusts take up this latest test, then about 98% of these invasive amniocentesis tests or CVS tests could be avoided. This is very new research and as the test is more expensive than the current available tests it probably won't be available for several years on the NHS. However, if you can afford to go private you may find that some special clinics will be offering this new DNA blood test in the near future.

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