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Guideline provides maternity care providers with new tools for prenatal screening and testing

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) and the Canadian College of Medical Geneticists (CCMG) have released a new clinical guideline that recommends all pregnant women in Canada — regardless of age — be offered the option of a first trimester ultrasound and a prenatal screening test for the most common fetal aneuploidies (e.g. Down syndrome) and major congenital anomalies.

The landscape of prenatal screening and diagnosis has changed considerably in the last decade with the rapid development of new technologies, particularly the introduction of non-invasive prenatal testing or NIPT (using circulating DNA in maternal blood) and chromosomal microarray analysis of amniotic fluid.

The Update on Prenatal Screening for Fetal Aneupoloidy, Fetal Anomalies, and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes provides guidance to maternity care providers on the impact they may have on prenatal counselling, screening and diagnosis. It replaces three existing guidelines and updates two others to become the most comprehensive document in Canada on the issue to date.

“Patients who opt for testing no longer have to choose invasive procedures like amniocentesis as a first line test and can opt for lower risk options first to detect structural abnormalities earlier in their pregnancy,” says Dr. Blake, CEO SOGC. “Earlier detection can also be beneficial in determining birth dates or whether the mother is carrying twins. But these new tools also increase the need for earlier provider-patient counselling about the risks, benefits and alternatives in testing—including the right to no testing prior to any screening, and the risk of false positives.”