It has become the norm to test pregnant women for a host of abnormalities during pregnancy. The tests can help prepare a mother-to-be for having a child with special needs. They can also inform doctors and their patients when abnormalities are a threat to the mother and/or the fetus.
Noninvasive prenatal testing (otherwise known as NIPT) is a method used to screen a pregnant woman for chromosomal abnormalities in the child she is carrying. It was first introduced in Hong Kong in 2011 and was quickly put to use around the world, including in the United States.
Through noninvasive prenatal testing, doctors can determine whether the unborn child is at risk of having trisomy 13, trisomy 18 (Edward’s syndrome), Down syndrome, or an abnormality with a sex chromosome.
These tests are done with a blood test. Specialists are able to examine the fetal DNA in the blood of the mother to determine the risk of abnormalities. The child’s sex and blood type can also be determined.
There is no physical risk to the mother or the baby with this type of testing. They are performed during the first trimester and may give a woman the time needed to make an informed decision about carrying the pregnancy to term.
Noninvasive prenatal testing is generally only available to women with certain risk factors. Insurance may not cover this type of testing.
You may be a candidate for noninvasive genetic testing if:
1) You are at risk of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality
If you have given birth to a child with a chromosomal abnormality in the past or if you are of advanced maternal age, then there is a higher risk for chromosomal abnormalities in your child.
2) You are a carrier of an X-linked recessive disorder
Some disorders generally only affect males such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy or hemophilia (which is a blood-clotting disorder). Noninvasive prenatal testing can determine the sex of the baby before an ultrasound can, though it will not determine whether the child has the disorder.
3) You have an Rh-negative blood type