The first ultrasound scan is a major milestone in every woman’s pregnancy.
For most, the dating scan – carried out around 12 weeks into the pregnancy – will also include a prenatal screening test for Down’s syndrome and genetic conditions such as Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes.
The current test offered on the NHS can tell expectant mums whether they are at high or low risk, can’t say for sure whether the baby will be affected.
For that, women told they are at high risk through initial screening must undergo an invasive diagnostic test – however these can cause a miscarriage, leaving parents-to-be with a difficult dilemma.
Now, that risk can be avoided as the non-invasive IONA test is available privately at Leeds hospitals thanks to a partnership between manufacturer Premaitha Health and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
Dr Kelly Cohen, consultant in fetomaternal medicine and obstetrics at the trust, said: “The Fetal Medicine team at LTHT are absolutely committed to ensuring that as many women as possible are able to opt for non-invasive testing until it becomes available as an NHS test. We’ve chosen IONA as we believe it is a highly effective screening test.”
Karen Rosco-Bailey was one of the first mums to have the test in Leeds – minimising the risk to her “miracle baby” was vital.
The 43-year-old was astounded to discover she was pregnant as she and her husband Mark were about to embark on their fifth round of IVF.
The couple, whose four-year-old daughter Georgia was the result of their second treatment, were losing hope of having another child, so they were delighted when Karen conceived naturally.
Her first scan went smoothly but the results of the screening test showed she had a 1 in 27 chance of the baby having a genetic condition.
Karen, from Pontefract, was given various choices and after weighing up the options, decided on the IONA test because it was risk-free.
“My worst fear was that I would lose the baby,” she said. “I thought ‘what if I found out everything was fine, then two weeks later had a miscarriage’.”
Following a worrying five-day wait for the results, which are analysed in the UK, Karen was relieved to be told it was highly unlikely the baby was affected.
“I could just go ahead and enjoy my pregnancy,” she said.
She and her family are now looking forward to the arrival of their baby girl, due in August.
“I would absolutely recommend the IONA test to other pregnant women,” she said “Any woman would do anything to avoid risk to their baby.”
As an Olympic snowboarder, Zoe Gillings-Brier is already planning for her return to the slopes after having her first baby this summer.
So she wanted to be fully informed about the pregnancy and chose to have the IONA test in Leeds when she was 13 weeks pregnant.
“If we could find out if there were any problems, we would rather know in advance,” she said.
Zoe, 30, came back as low risk: “It was the logical choice for maximum peace of mind.”