Non-invasive prenatal testing can give parents the answers they need

Expectant mothers undergo a number of pathology tests to find out about the health of their babies. Non Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) is a highly accurate way to look for abnormalities in a baby’s DNA without the invasive procedure of amniocentesis.

Amniocentesis extracts fluid from the sac which surrounds the foetus inside the mother’s womb. The procedure uses a thin needle which is inserted through the mother’s skin; a local anaesthetic is usually administered to prevent pain to the mother.

Along with being invasive and possibly uncomfortable for women, the amniocentesis procedure does carry some risks. Although it is widely considered very safe and it is rare for any problems to occur, there are slight risks of infection, Rh sensitisation or spontaneous abortion. NIPT does not carry the same risks.

The benefit of this testing means parents can find out if their baby has a chromosomal condition such as Down Syndrome. This advance knowledge can help parents to prepare for their baby’s birth by being better informed about a condition and knowing how to plan for the baby’s future. This knowledge is also useful for medical practitioners in case of complications during pregnancy, birth and early infancy.

Using NIPT instead of amniocentesis is not only easier and safer for the patient but is also more cost effective. As around 5% of women will have some abnormality in their 10 week screening, using NIPT as the next step instead of amniocentesis will save money as the test is cheaper to conduct than amniocentesis – where the procedure itself can take up to 90 minutes.

The NIPT test is somewhat complex and requires a high level of expertise both in the testing process and in interpreting the results. This highlights the importance of having highly trained scientists and pathologists in laboratories to ensure that doctors are given accurate results. It is also important to have specialist input on whether the test should be done following the results from a woman’s 10 week screen.