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A new blood test to detect Down’s syndrome in pregnancy

Posted Sep 07 2008 8:02pm

A test that can detect Down’s syndrome from the blood of pregnant women has raised the prospect of routine screening for the condition for every expectant mother who wants it and should be available in around 5 years.

At the moment a test to check for Down’s syndrome is only carried out on women who are at high risk such as being over the age of forty. It is an invasive test and does carry the risk of miscarriage of one in 100 women. It involves inserting a needle into the womb to remove amniotic fluid surrounding the foetus or removing a small piece of the placenta.

Down’s syndrome affects around 1 in 900 of pregnancies and occurs when three copies of chromosome 21 are inherited instead of the usual two. Down’s syndrome causes learning difficulties and often cardiac defects.

However, if the test proved positive what would you do? It would give you more time to prepare and research about your life as a parent of a child with Down’s syndrome but equally it could increase the abortion rate.

Many parents who have a child with Down’s syndrome experience all the joys of parenthood and will tell you that they wouldn’t change anything. Their children enjoy their life and have great potential.

Would you go ahead and have the test if it became more accessible?

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