Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Call for More Down Syndrome Screening

Less Invasive Tests for Genetic Defect Mean All Pregnant Women Should Be Checked, Docs Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 4, 2007 -- With new, less-invasive ways to check for Down syndrome, screening for the genetic birth defect should now be offered to all pregnant women, regardless of age, says a leading obstetricians' group.

Traditionally, pregnant women 35 and older at time of delivery have been considered at highest risk of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome and have been urged to get tested.

The new recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists call for prenatal screening tests for Down syndrome to be offered to all pregnant women.

The new screening tests are far less invasive than older, albeit more definitive, diagnostic tests, such as amniocentesis.

While screening tests can't provide a diagnosis, they do indicate who is at increased risk and should then be checked by amniocentesis or another invasive test, chorionic villus sampling (CVS).

Down syndrome is a common genetic birth defect that affects approximately one in 800 children.

Babies with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome, which causes developmental differences in the brain and body. They can include mental retardation, a characteristic flat facial appearance, serious heart defects, and other medical problems.

Down Syndrome Testing No Longer Based on Age

In creating the revised recommendations, which appear in the January issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers reviewed studies on ways to screen for Down syndrome developed in the last decade. These screens combine ultrasound examination and blood tests.

The scientists also reviewed the age cutoff of 35 for recommending Down syndrome diagnostic testing.

Genetic defects such as Down syndrome can be diagnosed with the more invasive amniocentesis.

But the test involves inserting a needle to draw a fluid sample from the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus for genetic analysis. It isn't normally done until the second trimester and is associated with a small risk of miscarriage.

The new, noninvasive screening tests can be performed earlier, during the first trimester of pregnancy, giving women more information sooner.

And although the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome does increase with the mother's age, researchers say it is a gradual increase that doesn't jump suddenly at 35.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
slideshow fetal development
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
What Causes Bipolar
Woman trying on dress in store
pregnant woman
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
healthtool pregnancy calendar
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy