Calls for public funding of blood test that determines chromosomal abnormalities in pregnant women

Calls are intensifying for public funding of a blood test that determines some chromosomal abnormalities in pregnant women.

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The NIPT is highly accurate in diagnosing Downs Syndrome, along with two less common genetic conditions Source: 1 NEWS

The Non-Invasive Prenatal Screening test, also known as NIPT, is highly accurate in diagnosing Downs Syndrome, along with two less common genetic conditions, Edwards' and Patau's syndromes.

A NIPT test currently costs New Zealand women around $600, putting it out of reach of many pregnant women.

Other screening tests are provided in our health system and include a nuchal fold scan 12 weeks into the pregnancy and a blood test performed between 15 and 20 weeks.

Other diagnostic testing in the forms of the more invasive Amniocentesis and Chorionic Villus sampling is also available. The National Screening Unit says publicly funded antenatal screening has an overall detection rate of 78 percent.

The risk of miscarriage for Amniocentesis and Choronic Villus sampling is one in 200.

However, there is no risk of miscarriage with a NIPT and the test claims to have an accuracy rate of 99%.

That's led foetal medicine specialists and the New Zealand College of Midwives to call for NIPT to be publicly funded.

Professor Peter Stone, fetal medicine specialist at Auckland University, believes women have a right to the best possible test so New Zealand should be providing national best practice.

Professor Stone says more women having access to NIPT would mean fewer undergoing the more invasive procedures.

"On current estimates there could be 10 to 12 pregnancies a year saved from women who currently go through testing," Professor Stone says.

The New Zealand College of Midwives agrees.

"Because you have to pay for the test, it's not available to women who can't afford to pay,” says Dr Lesley Dixon, "so it's basically inequitable for women."

Pregnant mum-to-be Emma Smith saved for months for the $600 test.

"It is a commitment," Ms Smith says, "but it's worth it to know baby is safe and healthy."