Earlier pregnancy screening move for genetic problems

Picture of pregnant woman Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The conditions can cause a range of developmental problems

Experts say women should be offered screening tests to pick up serious genetic problems earlier in pregnancy.

Tests for the genetic conditions Patau and Edward's syndromes currently take place at about 20 weeks of pregnancy.

But the UK National Screening Committee recommends blood tests and scans to detect the abnormalities should be carried out sooner.

Public health experts in England say they are now in discussions about when to roll out these procedures.

The conditions affect about two in every 10,000 births in the UK each year.

Patau's syndrome, also known as trisomy 13, can be fatal. Babies with the condition may have a wide range of problems including heart defects and neurological abnormalities.

Some 75% of pregnancies affected by Edward's syndrome result in miscarriage or stillbirth. Babies with the syndrome often have severe developmental problems.

Dr Annie Mackie, of the UK National Screening Committee, said: "Over 700,000 women get pregnant in the UK every year and although over 95% of these pregnancies will be perfectly healthy, sadly in a few cases there are problems affecting the baby's development.

"This recommendation would give those women access to support and enable them to make important choices at an earlier stage of their pregnancy."

Ministers in England have approved the move and it is likely the rest of the UK will follow these recommendations.

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