The Obstetricians and Gynecologists from the American College have recommended that all pregnant women, regardless of age should be offered screening for Down's Syndrome. The recommendations have marked a major shift in prenatal care. The new guidelines were published in January's issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The main reason for their recommendations are that the tests far less invasive than the long-used amniocentesis are now widely available, some of that can even tell, in the first trimester, the risk of a fetus having Down syndrome or other chromosomal defects.
Until now, testing for the common birth defect hinged on whether the woman was older or younger than 35. This change has promised to decrease unnecessary amnios while also detecting Down Syndrome in moms who otherwise would have gone unchecked.
It is believed that about 1 in 800 babies has down syndrome, a condition where an extra chromosome present, causes mental retardation, a characteristic broad, flat face and small head and, often, serious heart defects.
The original age-35 trigger was chosen years ago when doctors had less information about the risk of Down syndrome. The only choice for prenatal detection was an amnio, using a needle to draw fluid from the amniotic sac, which may occasionally cause miscarriage.