What is Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)?

Prenatal testing serves as a cornerstone in modern obstetrics, providing invaluable insights into the health and well-being of both mother and baby throughout pregnancy. These tests are aimed at identifying any potential risks or abnormalities that may affect the baby’s health or the course of the pregnancy.
Among the array of prenatal testing methods available, Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) stands out as a groundbreaking advancement, revolutionizing the landscape of prenatal care. We are here to help you understand NIPT, the results and how they can be used to make informed decisions.

What is Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)?

Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a screening test to determine the chance that a baby might be born with certain genetic chromosomal issues called fetal aneuploidies. This disorder happens when a fetus has an extra chromosome (trisomy), a missing one (monosomy) or the number of XY sex genes are abnormal.
Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), Trisomy 18 (Edward Syndrome) and Trisomy 13 (Patau Syndrome) are the most commonly seen genetic abnormalities. Trisomy is a condition where there is an extra chromosome within the 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human body. The number following “trisomy” indicates which chromosome has a third copy. Monosomy is when one gene is missing from the pair.
NIPT screening works by analyzing cell-free DNA (cfDNA) fragments present in the mother's bloodstream. During pregnancy, some of these fragments come from the placenta and carry genetic information about the fetus (cffDNA). By examining these fragments through a simple blood draw from the expectant mother, NIPT can detect potential genetic abnormalities in the fetus, offering valuable insights into the baby's health without the need for invasive procedures.

When Can A NIPT Be Performed?

NIPT can typically be performed as early as 9 to 10 weeks into pregnancy and it is a simple blood test. This timing coincides with when there is a sufficient amount of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) from the placenta circulating in the mother's bloodstream. It's important to note that the accuracy of the test may vary depending on the gestational age at which it is performed. While NIPT can provide valuable information about the risk of certain genetic conditions, it's often recommended as part of routine prenatal care for women who may be at increased risk due to factors such as advanced maternal age or a history of chromosomal abnormalities in previous pregnancies. Additionally, NIPT can be offered to pregnant individuals who want to gain more insight into their baby's health and genetic makeup, regardless of their risk level.

What Do NIPT Results Show?

NIPT results typically show the likelihood or risk of the fetus having certain genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome (Trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (Trisomy 18), or Patau syndrome (Trisomy 13), as well as other chromosomal abnormalities. The results may indicate whether the risk is higher or lower than average for the tested conditions. NIPT is a screening test, not a diagnostic test, so a positive result does not necessarily mean the fetus has a genetic condition, while a negative result does not guarantee the absence of such conditions. In some cases, NIPT results may also provide information about the baby's sex or the presence of certain sex chromosome abnormalities, such as Turner syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome. However, NIPT does not screen for all possible genetic conditions or birth defects, so it's essential to discuss the results with a healthcare provider and consider additional testing or consultation with a genetic counselor for further evaluation and interpretation.

What is the Accuracy Rate?

The accuracy rate of NIPT, or Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing, varies depending on several factors, including the specific condition being tested for, the laboratory performing the test, and the gestational age at which the test is conducted. Overall, NIPT has demonstrated high sensitivity for common chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome (Trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (Trisomy 18), and Patau syndrome (Trisomy 13), with reported accuracy rates ranging from approximately 99% to 99.9%. However, it's essential to understand that NIPT is a screening test, not a diagnostic test, so there is still a small possibility of false-positive or false-negative results. Additionally, NIPT accuracy may be lower for certain populations or conditions, so it's crucial to discuss the limitations and implications of NIPT results with a healthcare provider or genetic counselor.

Can NIPT Yield False Negative Results?

Yes, although NIPT is highly accurate, it can yield false-negative results. A false-negative result means that the test indicates a low risk of a genetic condition when the condition is actually present in the fetus. Several factors can contribute to false-negative results, including mosaicism (where not all cells in the placenta carry the same genetic abnormality), maternal factors affecting the amount or quality of cell-free DNA in the bloodstream, or technical limitations of the test. While false-negative results are rare, they can occur, highlighting the importance of confirming NIPT results with additional diagnostic testing if there are concerns about the baby's health or if the clinical suspicion remains high.

Are Abnormal Results Common?

Abnormal results from Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) are relatively uncommon, especially in low-risk pregnancies. However, the likelihood of abnormal results can vary depending on factors such as maternal age, medical history, and the specific genetic conditions being tested for. In high-risk pregnancies or cases where there is a known genetic predisposition, abnormal results may be more common. It's essential to remember that an abnormal NIPT result does not necessarily mean that the fetus has a genetic condition.

What is the Next Step if NIPT is Positive?

When the results of NIPT are positive, further diagnostic testing is usually recommended to confirm the findings and provide more detailed information about the baby's health. The most common diagnostic tests used in this scenario include:
1. Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS): CVS involves taking a small sample of cells from the placenta for genetic analysis. This procedure is typically performed between 10 and 13 weeks of pregnancy and can provide definitive information about chromosomal abnormalities or genetic conditions in the fetus.
2. Amniocentesis: Amniocentesis involves collecting a sample of amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus for genetic testing. This procedure is usually performed between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy and can also provide accurate information about chromosomal abnormalities, genetic conditions, and neural tube defects.
Both CVS and amniocentesis carry a small risk of complications, including miscarriage, so the decision to undergo these tests should be made after careful consideration and discussion with a healthcare provider or genetic counselor. Additionally, genetic counseling may be recommended to provide support, information, and guidance throughout the testing process and to help expectant parents understand the implications of the results and make informed decisions about their pregnancy.

Does Insurance Cover NIPT?

In many cases, insurance plans do cover Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), especially when it's recommended based on factors such as maternal age, medical history, or previous pregnancy complications. However, coverage policies can vary widely depending on the insurance provider, the specific plan, and individual circumstances. Some insurance plans may cover NIPT as part of routine prenatal care, while others may require certain criteria to be met or pre-authorization from a healthcare provider.
It's essential for expecting parents to check with their insurance provider to understand their coverage options and any potential out-of-pocket costs associated with NIPT. Additionally, healthcare providers or genetic counselors may be able to assist in navigating insurance coverage and providing information about financial assistance programs or resources available for prenatal testing.

Can Chromosomal Abnormalities Be Prevented?

Chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome (Trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (Trisomy 18), and Patau syndrome (Trisomy 13), are typically caused by errors in the formation or division of chromosomes during cell division. These errors can occur randomly and are not usually preventable.
However, certain factors can influence the likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities, such as maternal age. For example, the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome increases with maternal age, particularly in women over 35. While these risk factors cannot be eliminated entirely, early prenatal screening and testing, such as NIPT, can help identify pregnancies at increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities. Additionally, genetic counseling can provide information about the risk factors and options for prenatal testing and management.
In some cases, chromosomal abnormalities may be detected early in pregnancy through prenatal testing, allowing for informed decision-making regarding pregnancy management and potential interventions. However, preventing chromosomal abnormalities altogether is currently not possible.

How Common Are Chromosomal Abnormalities?

Chromosomal abnormalities are relatively common, occurring in approximately 1 in every 150 live births. These abnormalities can involve numerical changes, such as having an extra chromosome (trisomy) or missing a chromosome (monosomy), or structural changes, such as deletions, duplications, or rearrangements of genetic material within chromosomes.
Some chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome (Trisomy 21), are more common than others and occur with a frequency of approximately 1 in every 700 live births. Other chromosomal abnormalities, such as Edwards syndrome (Trisomy 18) and Patau syndrome (Trisomy 13), are less common but still occur with notable frequency.

What Are the Risk Factors?

It's important to note that the prevalence of chromosomal abnormalities can vary depending on factors such as maternal age, genetic predisposition, and environmental influences. Additionally, not all chromosomal abnormalities result in viable pregnancies, as some may lead to early pregnancy loss or miscarriage. Nonetheless, chromosomal abnormalities are a significant aspect of prenatal genetic screening and testing, highlighting the importance of early detection and informed decision-making in prenatal care.

Final Thoughts on NIPT

NIPT represents a significant advancement in prenatal care, offering expectant parents valuable insights into their baby's health with a simple blood test. Through our exploration of NIPT, we've learned about its fundamental principles, the process of analysis, the timing of testing, and the implications of results. NIPT provides crucial information about the risk of certain genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and Patau syndrome, empowering parents to make informed decisions about their pregnancy.
While NIPT is highly accurate, it's essential to understand its limitations and potential for false-negative results, as well as the importance of further diagnostic testing and consultation with healthcare providers or genetic counselors when needed.
At Cryo-Cell International, we are committed to advancing research and providing innovative solutions to safeguard the health of future generations. Cryo-Cell International is more than just a cord blood bank. Safeguarding your family's future health has always been our top priority, and we continue to take strides toward giving our parents access to new treatment possibilities. In 2021, Cryo-Cell entered into an exclusive license agreement with Duke University, which grants us the rights to proprietary processes and regulatory data related to cord blood and cord tissue developed at Duke. This agreement makes Cryo-Cell the only cord blood bank with the rights to establish infusion clinics to further advance investigational therapies developed at Duke. Cryo-Cell expects to open its first infusion clinic this year, where it will be a site for future clinical trials investigating cerebral palsy, autism and other neurological conditions.
To learn more about cord blood banking, register for our virtual seminar.



Last Updated on: 04/22/2024 by Diane Paradise