Good news for pregnant women over 35: scientists in Europe are reporting that they’ve found a simple blood test to diagnose Down Syndrome. The report in the journal Nature Medicine says scientists can spot the chromosomal disorder through fetal DNA found in the mother’s blood. Down syndrome affects about 1 in 800 babies born in the United States each year, according to the March of Dimes.
Currently, most pregnant women get blood tests (a Nuchal Translucency Screening, triple screen, or quadruple screen) and ultrasounds as preliminary tests for Down Syndrome. If those results show an increased risk, amniocentesis, or the removal of a small amount of amniotic fluid through a needle inserted in the abdomen, or Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS), the removal of a small bit of the placenta through the cervix or abdomen, is recommended. Amnio is also routinely performed on expecting moms over 35, and carries a small risk of miscarriage. The new test not only removes the comfort and safety issues at play with amnio, but the test can be done earlier in the pregnancy.