When you first find out you’re pregnant, it’s important to start attending prenatal testing appointments as early as possible to help determine how your pregnancy should best be cared for. Early detection and diagnosis of certain conditions and risk factors ensure you get the further testing and treatment you need, as well as a fully formed plan for childbirth and early childhood health care.
Ultrasound imaging and non-invasive prenatal screenings (NIPS) are highly recommended as early pregnancy tests to discover a few major traits about the fetus, including whether it’s at risk for any genetic disorders and how many fetuses are in the womb.
Why Use NIPS Early In Pregnancy?
Non-invasive prenatal screenings are the earliest low risk pregnancy screening for genetic conditions, including Down syndrome. We use the term “screening” on purpose, as this procedure isn’t a diagnostic test. Screenings can tell you how at-risk your baby is for certain conditions, whereas diagnostic tests like CVS and amniocentesis will tell you for sure.
Available around 10 weeks of gestation, NIPS uses a simple blood draw to look for DNA that’s not encased in a cell, or in other words, cell-free DNA (cf-DNA). This DNA can belong to either the mother or the fetus(es), and can be tested to identify a few key things:
- Risk factor for conditions such as Down syndrome
- Gender if a patient wants to know
- Type of twins (identical or fraternal) in twin pregnancies
NIPS can also be used to confirm inconclusive ultrasound results, and vice versa. These conditions can determine additional testing and pregnancy care standards as well as being considered alongside other preexisting risk factors and conditions, such as family history or being over the age of 35.
What Does Ultrasound Tell Early in Pregnancy?
Ultrasound imaging is perhaps the most well-known test performed in early pregnancy. Ultrasounds can identify the developmental stage and heart health of the baby, as well as the number of fetuses that may be present. It also helps our doctors establish viability and due dates, which guides the rest of your pregnancy care.
In concordance with NIPS, ultrasound imaging of the fluid behind the baby’s neck, called the nuchal translucency, can help further refine the risk level of a baby with Down syndrome and other genetic conditions.
Do I Really Need Both Tests?
NIPS can be highly effective at detecting Down syndrome and some other common genetic conditions. The problem is NIPS only screens for a small group of genetic conditions, while ultrasound looks at the overall health of the baby. Ultrasound can also help clarify inconclusive or abnormal results on NIPS.
Your physician will tell you if you would benefit from undergoing both tests.
Prenatal Testing in New York City
The board-certified OB/GYNs at Carnegie Imagine For Women use the latest technology and techniques to help mothers of all risk levels deliver healthy, happy babies, including non-invasive prenatal screenings. This relatively new technology has enabled us to hone the results of an inconclusive ultrasound as well as identify a wide array of potential genetic disorders, including Down syndrome. To find out if these exams are necessary for you in the first trimester, contact us to learn more. You can reach us by calling our office or contacting us online today.
Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!