For couples looking to start a family pregnancy can bring great joy – as well as uncertainty and anxiety – along with it. Everyone wants to have a healthy pregnancy and an equally healthy baby, but sometimes pregnancy means unexpected health complications.
Fortunately, for parents who face a higher-risk pregnancy and would like reassurance about the health of their unborn baby, NIPT (non-invasive prenatal testing) screenings can help provide crucial information during uncertain times. NIPT can provide insights about the biological sex of a baby, as well as information about the likelihood of chromosomal defects.
What is NIPT?
When it comes to prenatal screenings, a NIPT test is one of the most comprehensive and safe methods that parents can use to learn more about their unborn child. Unlike more invasive forms of testing, NIPT can be performed as early as ten weeks.
The results of prenatal testing can answer many questions for new parents. It can help detect an assortment of common trisomies, or chromosomal disorders. These include trisomy 13 (or Patau syndrome), trisomy 18 (also known as Edwards syndrome), and trisomy 21 (or Down syndrome). Depending on the type of test, it can also detect triploidy, sex chromosome aneuploidies, and certain single-gene disorders, as well.
What Are the Benefits of NIPT?
NIPT is one of the safest types of testing a mother can undergo during pregnancy. Screenings such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) are invasive can result in a miscarriage. NIPT is considered to be a screening test rather than a diagnostic test. As such, this does mean that there are some limitations as to what it can reveal.
Nonetheless, some of the more notable benefits of electing to undergo NIPT include:
- It’s a non-invasive, simple test. Some prenatal tests require more intensive procedures to get the information necessary for screening. NIPT requires only a basic blood draw which can be taken at a routine prenatal checkup.
- It’s safe for both the parent and the baby. NIPT is considered to be quite safe for both the mother and her unborn fetus. Unlike more invasive tests, the risks of complications and miscarriages are extremely low.
- It’s available as early as ten weeks. Some prenatal tests cannot be performed until later in the pregnancy. The ability to get answers as early as the first trimester can be quite reassuring for expectant parents.
- It comes with a high degree of accuracy. While positive results may require follow-up testing, negative results are generally considered to be quite accurate.
- It can determine the biological sex of the baby. For parents who do not want to wait for childbirth to know the biological sex of their child, NIPT can share this exciting information with them.
- It doesn’t take long to get the results back. Oftentimes, the results can come back within just a couple of weeks. However, sometimes they can come in even sooner, giving parents the answers they seek in a very short amount of time.
Learning that a child may have a chromosomal disorder can have a profound impact on a baby and their parents. Luckily, genetic counselors are available to help parents navigate next steps.
Is NIPT Testing Right For You?
Whether this is your first child, or you already have several children at home, NIPT can be a profound resource during pregnancy. The decision to undergo testing is a highly personal one, but for those who do want to learn more, a conversation with a genetic counselor can start the process while allowing parents to feel more secure during the entirety of their pregnancy.