Mothers-to-be in Wales offered safer test for Down's syndrome
Pregnant women in Wales will be the first in the UK to be offered a safer and more accurate test for Down's syndrome, according to the Welsh Government.
The new non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), which it is anticipated will save one to two babies from miscarriage each year in the country, will be available from Thursday.
The move, which is in addition to the existing antenatal screening offer, will mean far fewer women will need invasive tests including amniocentesis, which carry a 1% chance of miscarriage and around a one in 1,000 risk of serious infection.
Previously all expectant mothers in Wales were offered a combined blood and ultrasound test in the first three months of pregnancy to check for abnormalities.
Those who show a high chance of their baby developing genetic conditions such as Down's, Edwards' and Patau's syndromes were offered the invasive tests, which often involve taking a sample from the womb.
NIPT, a blood sample analysed in a laboratory, will now be offered as an additional option to these invasive tests and for women who receive a negative result.
Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said he was pleased Wales was "leading the way" with the NIPT.
He said: "This more accurate test will reduce the need of further invasive tests in most cases, therefore reducing the incidence of miscarriages related to invasive procedures."
The decision to implement NIPT in Wales follows expert advice from the UK National Screening Committee and its introduction will be evaluated over the next three years.
Sharon Hillier, director of screening for Public Health Wales, said: "It is important that women are supported with information about the conditions and the screening offered so they can make the right decision for them as to whether they want to accept this offer."