A new study of 38,000 US women found that new testing methods could better predict fetal Down’s Syndrome in the first trimester than current, second-trimester testing. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study compared a new form of ultrasound test with the current “quadruple test,” a blood test administered around 16 weeks’ gestation. The new method was slightly more accurate, and would also eliminate the need for the invasive amniocentesis testing that is used as a follow-up to the quadruple test by replacing it with chorionic villus sampling to confirm the diagnosis, reports the Washington Post.
Fergal D. Malone, who led the study, said “This is a big deal for women. It’s going to have a big impact on care for women, not just in the United States but throughout the world,” according to the Post, and continued to recommend that testing be done for all women in their first trimester. Malone did not think earlier testing would increase the abortion rate, saying that “Most women are probably going to make the same decision now as before. If she decides to terminate the pregnancy, this just makes it safer and maximizes her privacy and confidentiality.” Earlier testing would also offer women more time to prepare for special-needs children. So far, reports the Los Angeles Times, 1600 physicians and sonogram technicians have been trained for the new procedure.