Special Correspondent

Mothers will have to be counselled to get a scan done

Rural Health Mission is supporting screening process

CHENNAI: A thorough screening programme, including a scan and blood test, between the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy will predict a mother’s risk of having a baby with Down’s syndrome, doctors have said.

On the occasion of World Down’s Syndrome Day it was important to highlight the need for every pregnant woman to undergo a screening test at the initial stage of pregnancy and to urge gynaecologists to stress for a mandatory test, as is being done in the West, S.Suresh, managing director, Mediscans, said.

Speaking to mediapersons at a conference organised by the Down’s Syndrome Association of Tamil Nadu, Dr. Suresh said the syndrome was a chromosomal disorder caused by the presence of an extra chromosome 21 in the cells of the foetus.

The babies are born with various degrees of mental retardation, congenital heart defects, gastrointestinal anomalies and low muscle tone.

This is known to occur in one in every 600 pregnancies globally. The risk increases with older women having babies. About half the foetuses with this kind of anomaly will automatically abort, but the rest can result in a live birth, he added.

Mothers will have to be counselled to get a scan done within the 11-12 week period to indicate any abnormality, combined with a blood test. An indication of abnormality can be taken from the thickness of the nuchal translucency, which is the fluid space behind the neck that can be measured in the scan.

Confirmatory diagnostic tests can be done only by chromosomal analysis using minimally invasive procedures such as Chorionic Villus sampling and Amniocentesis, Dr. Suresh said. These tests would have to be performed only in laboratories with licence for these procedures specifically.

If there is a positive result, the couple is counselled on the implications of rearing a child with Down’s syndrome. The decision is left to them to carry on with the pregnancy.

Rekha Ramachandran, chairperson, Down’s Syndrome Association of Tamil Nadu, said the National Rural Health Mission was supporting the screening process in the State and awareness should be spread about the scheme so that more mothers benefit. Ideally screening tests should be offered to all pregnant women for best results, she added.