Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a prenatal screening method that is gaining popularity for its timeline. Prenatal testing can be performed as early as 10 weeks, and its accuracy is between 97 and 99 percent accurate for the most common trisomy disorders (depending on the condition).
Furthermore, NIPT is a noninvasive test, meaning that there is no harm to the mother or the baby during testing. Initially, NIPT was only recommended for women in a high-risk category (for example, women who are 35 years or older), but now more women are opting for NIPT. For example, from 2014 to 2017, the number of women under the age of 35 who requested NIPT increased by 13 percent.
Understanding NIPT results can sometimes leave couples confused, since the test only indicates risk. In this article, we’ll explain a little bit more about the NIPT testing process and what the results could mean for your pregnancy.
How Long Does It Take to Get Results from NIPT?
NIPT results are typically sent to your doctor within 5 days from the time the blood sample is received by the laboratory. Your doctor will then call you to discuss your results.
What Do the Results of NIPT Mean?
NIPT is a screening test, meaning that the results will not say with 100 percent certainty whether your baby has or does not have a chromosomal abnormality. The results from an NIPT test tells your doctor the level of risk that your child may have a chromosomal abnormality associated with a specific disorder.
A negative, or low-risk, NIPT result means that your child is not likely to be affected by the chromosomal abnormalities looked for in the screen. A positive, or high-risk, NIPT result means that there is an increased chance that your child may have a chromosomal abnormality.
NIPT analyzes all cell-free DNA in the mother’s blood sample. This means that NIPT might detect a chromosomal abnormality in the mother or even early onset of cancer. Although further research is needed, this indicates that NIPT may also contribute to improving health care for the mother.
What Are the Next Steps?
Only diagnostic testing, like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), can confirm or deny whether your baby has a chromosomal disorder. If your NIPT results were “positive” or “high-risk,” your doctor or genetic counselor will mention diagnostic testing as an option.
Consider Working with a Genetic Counselor When Getting NIPT
If you’re considering getting NIPT, consider working with a genetic counselor. These healthcare professionals are specialty trained in medical genetics and counseling to help expecting mothers and couples understand the risks and benefits of prenatal screening and diagnostic testing. They also help you understand your test results and can help you cope with the emotional process that accompanies prenatal testing. You can find a genetic counselor in your area by searching the directory provided by the National Society of Genetic Counselors.