Maternal Blood Test Might Spot Birth Defects More Safely

Researchers take steps toward noninvasive screening for fetal abnormalities

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"I'm not a clinician, but I think it's fair to say that at this point we're a long way away from having something that would practically be able to replace amniocentesis," he cautioned.

Dr. De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist in the division of research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, in Oakland, said that while the risk associated with invasive screening is very low, an equally accurate risk-free blood test would be ideal.

"I believe the risk of spontaneous abortion or miscarriage due to an amniocentesis is 0.5 percent," he noted. "And the rate has been going down, because we are now much more technologically savvy. But of course a blood test would be noninvasive, cheaper and less risky. The question is, will the accuracy be the same? If so, then of course we'll go with the blood test. No questions asked. But that's a big 'if.'"

More information

For more on birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities, visit the March of Dimes.

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