A safer test for Down’s syndrome is to be introduced for pregnant mums in Wales.
The Welsh Government has announced the more accurate non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) will be offered from 2018.
The decision by the Welsh Government follows moves in England to do the same..
The new blood test does not offer a complete diagnosis. It aims to give women a more accurate picture of their risk of having a child with the genetic disorder.
It is more accurate than current antenatal screening, which estimates the chance that pregnant women have of having a baby with Down’s syndrome.
If the risk is deemed high, women are offered an invasive test called amniocentesis – where a needle is used to extract amniotic fluid and which carries a risk of miscarriage.
It is expected one to two babies per year in Wales will be saved from miscarriage as a result of the introduction of NIPT. It will be offered as an additional option for women found to have a higher risk of having a child with Down’s syndrome.
Only the invasive test can give a confirmed diagnosis, however.
Women who are given a positive NIPT test would not be able to opt for a termination based on that result alone.
Public Health Minister, Rebecca Evans said a negative NIPT result will offer pregnant women reassurance without the need for a further invasive diagnostic test.
She said: “We want to ensure every expectant mother in Wales receives the information, advice and support they need throughout their pregnancy.”
Julian Hallett, of the Down’s Syndrome Association in Wales, said it was essential midwives, screening co-ordinators and other health professionals were trained about the genetic condition before the new screening is rolled out.
He said: “Those women who receive NIPT results will be placed in a position which may lead some to make a decision on whether they continue with their pregnancy. It’s a life-changing decision.”