Safer tests to detect the presence of Down syndrome in the fetus during pregnancy are now available after health services in New Zealand started a new screening program.
Women who visit a midwife or a doctor during their pregnancy will be offered this blood test, which is free. They will also be asked to undergo an ultrasound, which costs $30 to $40.
The new test will be offered because older tests were found to compromise normal pregnancies as well.
Peter Stone, the professor of maternal fetal medicine at Auckland University said that "more normal pregnancies may be adversely affected by amniocentesis than the numbers of Down syndrome fetuses detected".
The risk of Down syndrome increases after a woman crosses the age of 35, so older women will be most benefited from using the new test.