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A Guide To The Use Of Ultrasound In The First Trimester Of Pregnancy To Look For Down Syndrome

by Stella Robinson

If you are over 35 and are pregnant, you may already know that your age puts you at a slightly higher risk of conceiving a child with certain genetic problems, such as Down Syndrome. While the primary way of diagnosing a genetic issue in an unborn baby for many years was the amniocentesis, there are now less invasive ways to procure the necessary information. One popular method of finding out pertinent information about babies prior to their birth is the ultrasound. If you are at a higher risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome, it is a good idea to be aware of the following information.

Understanding Why Older Pregnant Women Should Never Skip Being Screened For Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is often the first genetic problem that people think of with mature mothers. While women of any age can have a baby with Down Syndrome, it is much more common as a woman ages. For example, a 21-year-old mom-to-be has a 1 in 1200 chance that her baby will have Down Syndrome, while a woman at 35 years of age has a 1 in 350 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. By 40, it's 1 in 100 and 1 out of 10 babies that are conceived and carried by a 49-year-old woman will have the genetic problem in question.

Knowing How And When The Ultrasound Should Be Administered

Fortunately, an ultrasound, which may also be known as a sonogram, can create a detailed image of the baby in the first trimester. Generally recommended for no earlier than 11 weeks and no later than 13 weeks and six days gestation, the ultrasound used for detecting Down Syndrome will image the amount of enclosed fluid located at the back of the fetus's neck. If the amount of fluid detected is more than about 2 mm when you are 11 weeks pregnant or 2.8 mm at 12 or 13 weeks, your doctor may recommend additional testing because higher fluid levels often indicate Down Syndrome. This ultrasound does not determine the presence of Down Syndrome and should be considered one of many valuable tools provided by your OB to help you and the baby to be happy and healthy.   

On average, 5 out of every 100 women who have this procedure will learn they are at a higher risk of the baby having Down Syndrome. If that occurs, you may be watched more closely or advised to seek an amniocentesis or CVS test to obtain more information. Those tests obtain genetic information from the placenta using a long needle, and, while invasive, are still considered to be very safe. 

In conclusion, ultrasounds provide invaluable information about unborn children and their use has been responsible for diagnosing many health concerns for babies months before their due date. As a result, it is a good idea to be aware of the information discussed above. For more information on ultrasounds, contact a company like EVDI Medical Imaging.