Pregnancy and Chorionic Villus Sampling
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a prenatal test that is used to detect birth defects, genetic diseases, and other problems during pregnancy. During the test, a small sample of cells (called chorionic villi) is taken from the placenta where it attaches to the wall of the uterus.
Chorionic villi are tiny parts of the placenta that are formed from the fertilized egg, so they have the same genes as the baby.
You may be offered CVS if you have certain risk factors for having a baby with a birth defect or genetic disease, so that problems can be found early in pregnancy.
What Diseases or Disorders Can CVS Identify?
CVS can help identify such chromosomal problems as Down syndrome or other genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, and sickle cell anemia. CVS is considered to be 98% accurate in the diagnosis of chromosomal defects. The procedure also identifies the sex of the fetus, so it can identify disorders that are linked to one sex (such as certain types of muscular dystrophy that occur most often in males).
CVS does not detect open neural tube defects like spina bifida.
What Are the Benefits of CVS?
CVS can be done early in pregnancy (earlier than amniocentesis), and results are usually obtained within 10 days. Getting this kind of information early allows a woman to make choices in the beginning stage of her pregnancy. If a woman chooses to terminate the pregnancy after receiving abnormal test results, the termination will be safer than if she waits until later for amniocentesis results.
What Are the Risks of CVS?
CVS may carry a slightly higher risk of miscarriage than amniocentesis, because the procedure is done in early pregnancy. Infection may also occur. Rare cases of defects in baby's fingers or toes have been reported, especially when CVS was done before nine weeks. This risk seems unrelated to the doctor’s experience or how the test was done. Due to this potential risk, 10 weeks is generally the earliest recommended time to perform this test.
Who Should Be Tested With CVS?
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, CVS testing should be offered to:
- Pregnant women who will be 35 or older on their due date (the risk of having a baby with a chromosomal problem such as Down syndrome increases with the age of the woman)
- Couples who already have had a child with a birth defect or have a family history of certain birth defects
- Pregnant women with other abnormal genetic test results
Your health care provider can advise you on whether this test is right for you. In the end, only you and your partner can decide whether or not you should have this test.