Pregnant Women May Need Tests Earlier

Big changes could be in store for pregnant women when it comes to their doctor appointments. A new study found women of all ages should consider being tested for Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders earlier in their pregnancy than ever before.

Sally Zamadics is four months pregnant and is about to get an ultrasound. She's no stranger to them. She had a baby four years ago, but this time around, she's getting "extra" ultrasounds and blood tests.

"I think it's really important because it gives women additional information about their pregnancy that they normally will not have," says Sally.

More than 33,000 women participated in a study to help identify Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders during the first trimester. Usually, women get blood tests to check for Down Syndrome in their second trimester. The study also used ultrasounds to check the thickness of the back of the fetus' neck. The thicker that area, the higher the risk of Down Syndrome and other disorders.

"The advantage of first-trimester [testing] is that women can get an answer earlier in their pregnancy without having to wait ‘til very late in the second trimester," says Dr. Luthly.

Researchers also say that testing mothers in the first and second trimesters allows doctors to pinpoint potential problems more accurately. That could reduce the number of unnecessary amniocentesis tests. And, it can give women earlier reassurance that their baby is OK.