Now, women do not need to wait till the second trimester of pregnancy to undergo a screening test to identify the risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities, including Down’s Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes mental retardation.
Recent advances have made it possible to screen women between the 10th and 13th week of pregnancy.
The new test, called Combined Screening, became available in India about 18 months ago. It uses a combination of the results of the mother’s blood test and an advance ultrasound of the foetus to estimate risk.
“The test is more accurate and allows couples more time to go for a confirmatory test and decide on whether they want to continue the pregnancy,” said Dr Adi Dastur, dean of Wadia Hospital.
Dr Dastur was speaking on the sidelines of the national conference of the Indian Society for Prenatal Diagnosis and Therapy held at a Juhu hotel on Saturday.
The Triple Marker test used to be the standard tool for screening women but it can only be done between 15th and 17th week of pregnancy. If the test reveals that the foetus is at risk, the woman has to undergo an invasive test, amniocentesis, to confirm the diagnosis. By the time the report arrives, it is sometimes too late to take any decision. Abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy is illegal in India.
Experts are also recommending that all pregnant women — not just those who are over 35 years or those with a family history — should be offered the test.
“In India, most Down’s children are born to women below 35 because 90 per cent of children are born to younger women,” said Dr Shantala Vadeyar, a foetal medicine specialist attached to Kokilaben hospital.
Dr Vadeyar has recommended the test to all her patients over the past 18 months. One of the babies was diagnosed with the syndrome.
The conference focused on the importance of genetic screening and the right of children to be ‘born healthy’.