KUSA - Many women wait to have children until later in life. With age, those moms-to-be often face some difficult decisions, including whether to undergo an amniocentesis test to check for birth defects.
The test carries its own risks that range from bleeding to the loss of pregnancy.
Now doctors at the University of Colorado School of Medicine are able to offer expecting mothers a non-invasive alternative.
The test will help woman like Gabrielle Stewart, who will meet her son this summer.
"He's beautiful. He's big, he's strong as and he's healthy," she said of her unborn child.
Since Stewart is 38, she is considered "high risk" and more likely to give birth to a baby with chromosomal differences.
Those range from a child who may have special needs to medical problems.
One in 200 pregnancies involves genetic disorders. Until recently, the only way a doctor could screen for these genetic disorders was with an amniocentesis test that involves using a 6-inch needle to draw amniotic fluid.
Now a DNA blood test is an option doctors can offer patients like Stewart. It is non-invasive and helps put the mother's mind at ease.
"We can give moms that reassurance without putting them through the anxiety and worry of a miscarriage related to an amniocentesis," Dr. Teresa Harper said.
If the DNA test finds something unusual, an amniocentesis is then recommended.
"Whatever you are blessed with you will conquer. But I do believe that preparation and the education beforehand can really help you give your child the best opportunities whatever the situation is and I think not doing anything would have made me very stressful and stress is not good for the baby," Stewart said.
Harper says all women over the age of 35 should be offered prenatal DNA testing. So should woman with a history of genetic disorders or an ultrasound, which indicates abnormalities.
Currently, the test only detects eight chromosomal problems, including sex chromosome issues including Turner syndrome.
However, Harper said cell-free fetal DNA testing is advancing rapidly and has the potential to detect issues in all 46 chromosomes.
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