Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Safer test for Down's syndrome could soon be offered to pregnant women on the NHS

Current tests for Down's syndrome are invasive and risky. Credit: PA Wire

A new DNA blood test is set to be offered to pregnant women on the NHS to find out whether their baby has Down's syndrome.

The current tests available to women at high risk of carrying a baby with the condition are invasive and carry a risk of miscarriage.

Women who are between 11 and 14 weeks are offered a blood test and ultrasound scan, known as the combined test.

If these show they have a risk greater than one in 150 of having a baby with Down's they are then offered a choice of two invasive diagnostic tests. Both these two tests carry a one in 100 risk of miscarriage as they involve taking a sample from the women's womb with a needle.

But the National Screening Committee (NSC) is expected to recommend that a new DNA blood test, currently only available privately, should be made available on the NHS.

Research suggests the cell-free DNA test, which samples foetal DNA in the mother's blood, is "highly reliable."

Our research puts the case for offering the cell-free DNA test on the NHS. This would improve the performance of screening, and reduce the number of unnecessary invasive tests and miscarriages

– Professor Kypros Nicolaides, Kings College Hospital

A Public Health England spokesman said: "The UK NSC is currently consulting on introducing non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) to the existing fetal anomaly screening programme (FASP). A recommendation is expected to be made at the next UK NSC meeting in November."