Study: Prenatal NIPT does not cause lower number of Down children

12-01-2023

Western Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Photo Unsplash, Pavol Štugel

The introduction of the NIPT (non-invasive prenatal testing) blood testing of unborn babies has not caused a stronger decline in the number of babies born with Down Syndrome.

Prenatal tests, in general, do contribute to the continuing decrease in numbers, but the NIPT, in general, does not do so, says Dutch PhD researcher Maurike de Groot-van der Mooren. That reported by the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad. She is a children's doctor and a neontologist in a Dutch hospital and has studied the health of newborns for years. "We do not see a change in the trend of numbers of babies with Down Syndrome since the introduction of the NIPT for all women in the Netherlands in 2017."

Chance

Between 1992 and 2002, the number of babies with Down Syndrome increased, says De Groot. She explains that during these years, women postponed their pregnancies more and more. If mothers are older when getting a child, they have a higher chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome.

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Photo RD

After 2002, the number of prenatal tests increased, which led to a decrease in babies with Down Syndrome, De Groot says. About 85 per cent of the women who discover via prenatal testing that their unborn child has Down Syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancy, the Reformatorisch Dagblad reports.

Since 2007, when the national prenatal screening program was introduced in the Netherlands, the number of pregnant women participating in prenatal tests has increased. In 2007, this percentage amounted to 15 per cent. In 2020, the number had risen to 52 per cent.

Proposal

In England, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland, there are hardly any babies with trisomy 21 anymore, according to the Reformatorisch Dagblad. This is because most of these babies are aborted. De Groot does not think that the Netherlands will end up in the same situation, as the number of women who choose prenatal testing is much lower.

The Dutch health minister wants to make the NIPT free for all pregnant women starting in April. Currently, the test costs 175 euros. De Groot worries about this proposal. "You don't want women choosing for the test just because it is free. A pregnant woman should be able to make a well-informed choice and be aware of the potential consequences. Also, women need to be able to choose whether they want to participate without social pressure."

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