More mums-to-be to get screening

More expectant mothers in Norfolk are to be offered earlier screening to tell whether the child they are carrying could have Downs Syndrome.

All women over the age of 35 will now be able to receive a nuchal translucency screening scan (or nuchal fold scan) at about the 12th week of pregnancy at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Until now, only pregnant women in high risk categories have been eligible for the scan, but the service has been extended to all over-35s following a cash injection of £500,000 by NHS Norfolk. And NHS Norfolk is now working on extending the scan to all expectant mothers.

The extended service came on-line at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital this week. Two rooms have been refurbished and equipped with ultrasound scanners in anticipation of demand.

Consultant obstetrician Mr Eddie Morris said: “We are pleased that this investment has been made and enables us to offer an extended service to women over the age of 35.”

It is essential that women bring their signed consent form with them on the date of the scan otherwise it cannot take place. The forms are available from midwives.

All pregnant women have been, and will continue to be, routinely offered screening for Down’s syndrome by a blood test alone at about 16 weeks in the pregnancy. But combining the blood test with a nuchal fold measurement in the first 3 months offers earlier screening for Downs.

The scan allows sonographers or doctors to measure the fluid between layers of skin on the back of the baby's neck. If the skin is thickened, i.e. containing more fluid, it is a useful indicator, when combined with a blood test at the same time, that the baby may have an increased risk of Down's. A mother might then make a decision about whether to go on to have an amniocentesis, which involves taking a sample of fluid from the womb in which the baby is developing.

NHS Norfolk's Assistant Director of Women's and Children's Services, Clive Rennie said: “We are delighted to extend this service at the NNUH, it gives women more knowledge about their pregnancy.

“It is an initiative that we promised in our five year strategy, 'Bold and Ambitious' and also in the East of England strategy, which we are now delivering.”

Tuesday 24th of November 2009 01:00:18 PM