What to Know About False Positives During Prenatal Screenings

What to Know About False Positives During Prenatal Screenings

by / Wednesday, 29 June 2022 / Published in Birth Trauma, Medical Malpractice
Overhead view of a woman holding a newborn baby.

Throughout any pregnancy, an expectant mother will undergo many health screenings. It’s very important for doctors to closely monitor the health of both the expectant mother and the baby to make sure everyone is healthy and that there aren’t early indications of complications. In many cases, this includes screenings for conditions such as Down syndrome.

Screenings for conditions like Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and Patau syndrome, among others, can be carried out through noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT). However, a report published by the New York Times found that NIPT tests tend to result in a high rate of false positives. So are NIPT tests something you should avoid?

It’s important to understand the difference between a screening and a diagnostic test. NIPT is a screening, not a diagnostic test. Screenings are intended to look for signs that a condition could potentially exist, but a separate diagnostic test is needed to confirm whether or not a condition exists. As alarming and stressful as it is to get a positive result from NIPD, remember that NIPD is not an actual diagnosis. 

It’s also important to understand the limitations of NIPT. NIPT can be accurate in screening for some conditions. NIPT can be used to screen for a wide variety of conditions, but generally speaking, it tends to be most accurate with conditions that are more common, such as Down syndrome, and produce more false positives with rarer conditions. NIPT was initially created to screen for Down syndrome, but as competition grew between companies that offer NIPT, they evolved to screen for several more conditions, including ones that are quite rare, which is where their accuracy falls short. In the case of Prader-Willi syndrome, for example, the New York Times report cites a study which found that positive results were incorrect over 90% of the time. 

NIPT can be recommended for patients in some situations, such as if they are over the age of 35 or have another known risk factor for a child developing a genetic condition. The ACOG goes as far as recommending NIPT for all pregnant individuals, regardless of whether they have a known risk factor or not. However, you do not necessarily need to be screened for everything that can be screened for with NIPT. You may also have other options to consider for screening, which may be more accurate. However, it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of those alternatives with your doctor. If you receive a positive result from NIPT and are concerned that your doctor isn’t taking appropriate follow-up measures, you may want to get a second opinion. 

Contact a Michigan Birth Trauma Lawyer

If your child was born with an injury or medical condition you believe was caused by a doctor’s negligence, don’t hesitate to contact a birth trauma lawyer. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to get help from a lawyer experienced in handling both birth trauma and medical malpractice cases in the state of Michigan. Very often, birth trauma is the result of medical malpractice. Contact us today for help with your case.

Image: iStock / kieferpix

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