When a woman becomes pregnant, initially it’s recommended that she go to the doctor where they can run some non invasive prenatal DNA testing to confirm the pregnancy and ensure that both mother and child are healthy. Pregnancies in women aged 35 or older are typically considered to be of higher risk than pregnancies in women younger than 35. This “higher risk” also includes a greater likelihood that the child will be born with a genetic disorder.
It is now common that women 35 and older be recommended noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) to screen the fetus for trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) and other potential chromosomal abnormalities. If you are under 30 and have been offered NIPT by your doctor, you may be confused and wondering why. Many doctors have begun recommending non invasive prenatal DNA testing to younger mothers for a variety of reasons.
More children with chromosomal abnormalities are born to mothers that are under age 35
While the likelihood of having a child with a genetic disorder increases dramatically after age 35, it is important to remember that approximately 80% of babies with Down syndrome are born to mothers under the age of 35. This occurs because the number of women 35+ having children is lower. While your risk of this remains low in your 20s, some doctors may recommend testing out of an abundance of caution.
Women who have previously delivered a child with a genetic disorder may be more likely to have another child with a chromosomal abnormality
It is common for doctors to recommend prenatal genetic testing to women who have previously given birth to a child with a chromosomal abnormality. In studies, it has been shown that these women have an increased risk of having a second child with a genetic condition.
A family history of genetic disorders could increase your chances of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality
If you or your partner have a family history or genetic predisposition for certain genetic conditions, your doctor may consider you at higher risk for having a child with one. In these cases, you may recommend non invasive prenatal DNA testing so that you can be prepared for any additional healthcare your child may need after birth (if a positive result is confirmed with comprehensive diagnostic testing later in the pregnancy).
Speak with Your Prenatal Care Team
It’s important to stay in communication with your prenatal care team throughout your pregnancy. In addition to keeping track of your pregnancy health, they will be able to address your specific questions about care recommendations — that’s what they’re there for!
If you are concerned about your risk of having a child with chromosomal abnormality, are interested in learning more about non invasive prenatal DNA testing or would simply like to know why you were or were not recommended this option, speak to your doctor or genetic counsellor. Using their knowledge and expertise, they will be able to provide additional resources, recommendations, and in-depth explanations that reflect your personal medical history and potential risk factors.
*This is a collaborative post