The benefits of non-invasive prenatal testing

We look at how new developments in prenatal testing can help parents to be as prepared as possible.

Expecting a child is one of the most beautiful experiences in life. However, it can spark a number of concerns. Many women seek answers to their worries through prenatal genetic testing, but some choose not to do so because these tests come with risks. Fortunately, expectant parents now have a safer and more accessible alternative to traditional prenatal testing, with the option of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). This cutting-edge technology, available at the National Reference Laboratory, an M42 company, allows healthcare providers to screen for a wide range of conditions in a non-invasive manner, early on in your pregnancy.

How does it work?

Dr. Sara Bisari, Head of Cytogenetics at HealthPlus Fertility Centre and the National Reference Laboratory in Abu Dhabi, says “NIPT stands out from traditional prenatal testing methods due to its non-invasive nature. Unlike other procedures like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), NIPT analyses foetal DNA present in the maternal bloodstream. This foetal DNA becomes detectable as early as ten weeks into pregnancy, eliminating the need for invasive procedures that carry a risk of miscarriage”.

While NIPT covers a wide range of genetic conditions, its primary focus is on common syndromes such as Down, Turner and Patau syndrome. However, it can also screen for all chromosomes, offering a thorough examination of the foetal genetic makeup.

The test is performed through a simple blood test, where a sample is collected from the expectant mother, and the baby’s DNA is then isolated and analysed. This circumvents the need for riskier procedures, making it a safer and more comfortable option for pregnant women.

Dr. Bisari adds: “The accuracy for this test is 99 percent for the common syndromes and that is why it is recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics to be performed for all pregnancies. While we’re not the only entity providing the service, we are in a privileged position of providing a comprehensive service surrounding prenatal care”.


The technology’s main advantage is its ability to detect chromosomal abnormalities. However, ongoing research is looking at its potential for targeting single-gene diseases in the future. NIPT is able to provide expectant parents with valuable information at a very early stage in their pregnancy journey.

NIPT also stands out as an exceptionally safe procedure with no associated risks or side effects, offering reassurance to pregnant women without subjecting them to the potential complications of invasive tests. Moreover, results from NIPT are generally reported within a week, ensuring a prompt assessment of your baby’s genetic status.

The test is recommended for all singleton or twin pregnancies, providing a safe and accessible option for all pregnant mums. In the case that issues or syndromes are found, healthcare providers can recommend further tests to help understand your situation better. The National Reference Laboratory further enhances this process by offering in-house counselling to support informed decisions.

The innovative procedure empowers expectant parents with a safer and more accessible way to gain valuable insights into their pregnancy journey, offering better preparation or peace of mind for parents-to-be.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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