We all know that pregnancy for older moms carries greater risks. If you’re 35 or older, one of the things both you and your doctor are likely to be particularly concerned about is the increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities for your baby. As a result of this increased risk, many older moms will be offered an optional screening called a Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT).
If you opt to have an NIPT, this early screening will help you determine the likelihood that your baby has a chromosomal disorder – and with a very high rate of accuracy. An added bonus? If you choose, you’ll also be given insight into the gender of your little one.
How Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) Works
GET THIS – your baby’s DNA is floating around in your blood. Who knew? (I personally think it helps explain how your brain and emotions are forever altered after having a baby, but I digress.)
At any rate, because fragments of your baby’s DNA are already floating around inside of you, this prenatal screening is a breeze. At around 10 weeks, your doctor’s office will provide you with a little test kit (or they’ll provide it directly to the lab if it’s onsite). Depending on your doctor, you may be asked to register your kit online. Then, you’ll bring your kit to a lab where you will give about 5 vials of blood – and that’s it. All you have to do is roll up your sleeve for this one (hence the name “noninvasive”).
Your results will most commonly be returned to your doctor first (and then to you), though the results during my first pregnancy were delivered straight to me in less than two weeks.
What Does Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) Look For?
There are multiple NIPT tests and they all primarily look for trisomies, such as Down syndrome. For both my 2018 and 2020 pregnancies, I participated in the Panorama NIPT by Natera. This particular test screens for multiple genetic conditions including trisomies, sex chromosome abnormalities, microdeletions, and triploidies. I also opted to learn the gender of our baby both times.
Here’s a sample of my report:
What Happens Next?
Your NIPT results will likely be used in conjunction with your first trimester nuchal translucency screening to determine if further testing is needed. This might include a chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis. Of course, both of these follow-up tests are considered invasive, which means they do carry some level of miscarriage risk. As such, the decision of whether or not to get them is one to be made with your healthcare provider.
Should You Get an NIPT?
You probably already knew I was going to say this, but…that’s a very personal decision. For me, I knew I was at a greater risk and I wanted to know – no matter the outcome. As a side note, I was also offered the Horizon Carrier Screening and opted out. I figured if I knew every possible genetic issue our combined DNA might hold, my husband and I might never have children!
The bottom line is that if you’re unsure if the NIPT is right for you, talk to your doctor or midwife, understand which specific NIPT test is being recommended, and do your research. You will also want to check with your insurance provider to find out if the cost of testing is covered because, if not, it can be rather expensive. (Luckily, many of the test providers offer a variety of payment methods and assistance for those without insurance or those with high-deductible health plans.)
Ultimately, only you know what is right for you and your family. If you decide that early information about possible chromosomal abnormalities is something you want to have, then the NIPT is a reliable and easy screening for expecting moms.
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