Experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) are recommending that maternal age no longer be a major criterium for testing pregnant women for Down syndrome. Currently, doctors don't routinely order the test for women under 35, due to risks linked to invasive amniocentesis, the Associated Press reported.
However, the advent of accurate, less invasive testing technologies means that younger women should now be screened for the birth defect, experts say. The new ACOG guidelines are published in the January issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
About 1 in every 800 babies is born with Down syndrome, which is caused by an extra chromosome. Risks rise gradually with maternal age: about one in every 1 200 pregnancies in women aged 25 are affected by Down syndrome compared to one in every 300 pregnancies for women aged 35.
New non-invasive tests - such as a combination of first-trimester blood screening and detailed ultrasound of the foetal neck - are more than 80 percent accurate in spotting Down syndrome, with very few false-positives, the AP reported. Routine use in all pregnant women could detect more cases much earlier, the ACOG experts say.
"The new recommendation makes a lot of sense," Dr Nancy Green of the March of Dimes told the AP. "Maternal age no longer plays such an important role because the screening is better." – (HealthDayNews)