A recent study published in the BMJ by Morris and Alberman examines trends in the numbers of Down’s syndrome live births and antenatal diagnoses in England and Wales from 1989 to 2008. In particular, the authors describe the effects of the changes in maternal age and advances in screening on the incidence of live births with Down’s syndrome and on the number of antenatal diagnoses.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) supports increased access to non-invasive testing to improve antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome. In 2001, the UK National Screening Committee advised that all pregnant mothers should be offered one of the available screening tests for Down’s syndrome. The Committee recommended that by 2007-10, these tests should have a false positive rate of less than 3% and an accurate detection rate of more than 75%.1 The increasing availability of the fetal nuchal translucency test together with analysis of blood hormone levels, commonly known as the 1st trimester combined test, signals a move in this direction.
Antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome provides important information for pregnant women and their families. The RCOG fully supports women’s informed choice in relation to antenatal screening, regardless of how they choose to proceed.
Quality information and counselling are also important prior to antenatal screening and related interventions, in order to prepare women for possible results, explain options, and enable families to access support when required.
27 October 2009
1UK National Screening Committee. Fetal anomaly screening programme – screening for Down’s syndrome: UK NSC policy recommendations 2007-2010: model of best practice. Available online at http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/index.htm.
Morris J K, Alberman E. Trends in Down’s syndrome live births and antenatal diagnoses in England and Wales from 1989 to 2008: analysis of data from the National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register. BMJ 2009;339:b3794/doi:10.1136/bmj.b3794.