The Future of Prenatal Testing Has Arrived
Posted on 22 March 2023
As an expectant parent, it can be overwhelming to think about all the screening tests you will be offered during pregnancy. With Mediclinic Precise, you now have access to highly accurate, non-invasive, and detailed information about your baby’s genetic health, thanks to non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT).
What is Prenatal Testing?
Prenatal testing refers to any test performed during pregnancy to assess the health of the developing foetus. This can include screening tests, such as ultrasound scans and maternal blood tests, and other diagnostic tests and procedures. The purpose of prenatal screening and testing is to identify any potential health problems or conditions, allowing expectant parents to make informed decisions about their pregnancy and childbirth.
Traditional Forms of Prenatal Testing
Traditionally, the only option expectant parents have had to receive more information about their baby’s genetic makeup (or chromosomal profile) during pregnancy has been to undergo an invasive prenatal test, such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis. Whilst these tests are diagnostic and highly accurate, they do carry a small risk of complications and may take several weeks to receive results.
The Arrival of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)
The Mediclinic Precise NIPT offering promises to change the way we think about genetic screening in pregnancy, says Dr Liani Smit, a consultant clinical geneticist pioneering Mediclinic’s expansion into precision medicine. With the advent of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), expectant parents now have access to a safer option for screening their developing foetus for chromosomal conditions. Chromosomal abnormalities, occur in approximately 1 in 150 births and although the risk increases as a woman ages, it can happen at any age. Whilst NIPT does not replace traditional prenatal testing options, several international organisations support the use of NIPT as a screening test which can be offered to all expectant women, regardless of their age or baseline genetic risks.
NIPT is a simple blood screening test that can be performed as early as 9 weeks into pregnancy. “The test safely analyses small fragments of placental DNA found in the mother’s bloodstream and can detect the risk for common chromosomal conditions, such as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome and Patau syndrome with a high degree of accuracy. It can also detect the risk for foetal sex chromosomal abnormalities, such as Turner syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome.
NIPT can also provide information about foetal sex and whether twins are identical or not.
Compared to traditional prenatal testing methods, NIPT has several key advantages, explains Dr Smit:
1. It’s non-invasive
Unlike CVS and amniocentesis, NIPT is non-invasive and carries no risk of harm to the developing foetus.
2. It’s accurate
NIPT has a high degree of accuracy for detecting common chromosomal conditions.
3. It’s early
NIPT can be performed as early as 9 weeks into pregnancy, allowing expectant parents to make informed decisions about their pregnancy and childbirth.
4. It’s safe – for you and your baby
NIPT provides expectant parents with peace of mind and the opportunity to prepare for any potential health problems or conditions.
5. It’s advanced
Mediclinic uses the Panorama Natera NIPT which offers more advantages than other NIPT options available in SA. The Panorama Natera NIPT can detect triploidy (where a foetus has a whole extra set of chromosomes); whether a twin pregnancy is identical or not; and can accurately differentiate between the maternal and placental DNA.
With the rapid development of non-invasive genetic testing offerings during pregnancy, the future of prenatal screening in South Africa is looking brighter than ever. In the near future, we can expect to see even more sophisticated and non-invasive prenatal testing options, says Dr Smit, allowing expectant parents to receive even more detailed and accurate information about their baby’s health.
Find out more about Mediclinic Precise here.