Three things to know about the role of NIPT in provincial health care systems:
- NIPT is used to detect fetuses with an increased chance of having certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, as well as fetal sex. It involves a blood test taken during pregnancy (at around 10 weeks) that analyzes fragments of fetal DNA that are present in maternal blood.
- Provincial prenatal testing frameworks involve screening tests (eg. maternal serum testing) available to all pregnant women to identify pregnancies at increased risk of carrying a fetus with certain disorders, followed by invasive diagnostic testing (ie. amniocentesis and CVS) available to those who screen positive or are otherwise at ‘high risk’. NIPT is currently only recommended for use as a secondary screening test for ‘high risk’ pregnancies. Risk factors include maternal age, family history, and positive results from the primary screening tests.
- With the exception of Ontario, NIPT is not publically funded, but available to those ‘high risk’ women who want the test and can afford to pay for it.