Improvements in Prenatal Screening Coming Soon


Prenatal testing can help detect problems with the baby before she is born. Knowing that a baby is going to be born with special needs not only gives parents the information needed to make difficult decisions, but can help them prepare to care for their child when she arrives. Unfortunately, current testing methods are far from perfect. In one recent study, 6% of babies who tested as normal using conventional testing methods were born with detectable genetic defects.

Prenatal screening tests commonly used now include:

  • Ultrasound
  • Blood testing
  • Amniotic fluid biopsy
  • Placenta sampling

These tests require doctors to look at samples, either on a monitor or under a microscope. Recent tests have shown that genetic screening is considerably more effective than other current testing methods. Medical scientists have high hopes for the newly developed genetic screening methods.

In addition to being able to accurately detect genetic abnormalities, scientists believe genetic screening could potentially show us why stillbirths occur. It is hoped that this could lead to effective preventative measures.

Prenatal testing has been a controversial topic in some circles for some time. Some fear that detecting genetic defects could lead women to terminate their pregnancies if a potential defect it detected. Doctors are quick to point out, however, that there are many reasons for conducting prenatal testing which have nothing to do with the choice to carry a pregnancy to term. For example, parents who are aware that their baby has a genetic abnormality can begin to prepare themselves for the challenges which go along with raising a special needs child.

There is a good deal of evidence that these tests are effective and safe. The main hurdle to making genetic screening available to all women is the cost. Currently, the cost of genetic screening is about double the cost of the standard prenatal testing offered to women by most insurance carriers.

Of course, if you are of the mindset that you don’t want to know in advance if your baby carries a genetic abnormality, the new testing won’t really affect you. For those women who do want to know about possible birth defects before their baby is born, however, this new technology represents a big step forward-if it can be made widely available.

What do you think? If your baby has a genetic abnormality, would you want to know ahead of time?


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