Other Private Antenatal Tests

Private clinics offer a range of different ultrasound scans, including early pregnancy scans, dating scans, anomaly, gender and growth scans, but they also offer additional antenatal tests, including screening tests for abnormalities, inherited conditions and genetic disorders. Here are some examples of antenatal tests, which may be available at a private clinic:

Down’s syndrome screening: Down’s syndrome screening usually involves a combination of nuchal translucency testing and a blood test; nuchal translucency is a test that analyses the fluid at the back of the baby’s neck. This combined test is usually carried out between 11 and 14 weeks. After this stage, if you are too far gone for the combined test, a blood test may be carried out; the blood test alone has a lower accuracy rate than the combined test.

Private clinics also offer NIPT (non-invasive pre-natal testing) to assess the risk of Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome; there are various different types of test available, including NIFTY and Harmony and the modern tests boast an accuracy rate of up to 99 per cent in the case of Down’s syndrome. The test involves taking a sample of blood from the mother’s arm and analysing the DNA from the foetus; it is important to note that this form of screening is only used to assess the risk and a diagnosis will only be confirmed by additional tests, which may include CVS (chorionic villus sampling) and amniocentesis. This test is available from 10 weeks and it may be beneficial for those who would like to know if their baby is at risk of being born with a genetic syndrome.

Chorionic villus sampling: chorionic villus sampling is a diagnostic test, which may be recommended in cases where the pregnancy is deemed high risk or you have family history of a genetic or inherited condition. CVS is available on the NHS, but it is generally only provided in cases where scans suggest that there may be an abnormality or the baby has a high risk of being born with a genetic or inherited illness. CVS can be used to test for a range of conditions, including:

  • down’s syndrome
  • sickle cell anaemia
  • cystic fibrosis
  • thalassaemia
  • tay-sachs disease

Before you have your test, you will have an ultrasound scan to determine the exact position of the placenta; this will help the doctor to decide whether to take the sample through the cervix or the stomach. If the sample is taken through the tummy, the tummy will first be numbed and then a very fine needle is inserted; the needle is used to collect a very small sample of tissue from the placenta. Ultrasound will be used to guide the doctor through the procedure. If the procedure is carried out through the cervix, the doctor will use a speculum into the vagina to open up the cervix and give them a clear view; they will then use a small pair of forceps to remove a very small amount of the placental tissue. The sample will then be analysed.

After the test, an ultrasound scan will be conducted to check the baby and you will be free to go home and rest. The results are not available immediately, but should be ready within 2 weeks.

Amniocentesis: amniocentesis is another diagnostic test, which can be used as an alternative to CVS in cases where there is a high risk of an inherited or genetic condition or a scan has presented abnormal results. This test involves taking a sample of the amniotic fluid, which surrounds the foetus in the womb; this sample will contain cells from the baby, which can be analysed in a laboratory.

The most common reason amniocentesis is used is to confirm that a baby has Down’s syndrome; however, this test can also be used to diagnose sickle cell anaemia, haemophilia, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida and thalassaemia.

The amniocentesis procedure usually only takes around 10-15 minutes and most people say that it is slightly uncomfortable, rather than painful; a very fine needle is inserted through the tummy to obtain the sample. Ultrasound technology is used to guide the obstetrician during the procedure and a scan will also be used afterwards to check the baby. After the test, you should try to take it easy and rest.

The results of amniocentesis will not be available straightaway; there are usually two types of test, one which provides results after a few days and one which provides a more detailed summary after 10-21 days.

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