ODESSA, TX (Local 2 News) — One in every 33 babies in the United States are born with a birth defect according to the Centers for Disease Control.
That statistic, steering scientists to find easier and faster ways to detect them before the baby is born.
Cassandra Oeth was 6 months pregnant, a first time mom and armed with information.
“For me, knowledge of the overall baby health was very important :16 and this was important to me from the beginning from a planning standpoint,” Oeth said.
Oeth underwent a Free Cell DNA Test, a non-invasive prenatal screening that is still in its early years of being commercially available.
“It’s an amazing tool that’s built on probably 50 years of science and technology and a lot of things just kind of came together in the 2000 to 2010 range,” Dr. James Maher, Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and the Medical Director for Maternal Fetal Medicine at Medical Center Hospital said.
As early as 10 weeks, through a simple blood test, doctors can separate mom and baby’s DNA and then scan for genetic conditions such down syndrome which is the most common abnormality.
“This test has been validated and is extremely accurate it’s very helpful for those moms that have anxiety,” Dr. Maher said.
While more information is accessible in an amniocentesis, where a needle is inserted into the mothers womb to collect amniotic fluid, Dr. Maher finds a Free Cell DNA blood test is easier for women to stomach.
“I’ve seen a lot more ladies that are ‘well, yeah, since it’s not going to risk the baby, I certainly do want to know more,'” Dr. Maher said.
High risk patients are most commonly advised to consider the test.
Some risk factors include age (35 or older), a family history of genetic or chromosomal anomalies, having diabetes and obesity, or smoking, drinking alcohol or drug use during pregnancy.
For Oeth, she is a low risk patient, but she simply wanted the information to be a prepared parent.
“The test offered me additional reassurance that my pregnancy was progressing normally, the baby was normal,” she said.
The Free Cell DNA test is not a diagnostic test.
It screens for red flags that may help a mother and her doctor decide how to move forward with the pregnancy.
While this is not a standard screening, some insurance companies do cover it.