Is Non-invasive Prenatal Screening (NIPS or NIPT) Safe?

At JunoDx™ we believe that all hopeful and expecting parents deserve equal access to prenatal care, including high-quality reproductive genetic testing. Our goal is to use our clinical expertise and science-backed research to help you find answers to your most pressing pregnancy-related questions, especially those about prenatal testing.

Here, we dig into one of the big ones: is non-invasive prenatal screening (NIPS) safe?

What is NIPS, and how does it work?

Non-invasive prenatal screening (also called non-invasive prenatal testing, or NIPT) is one way to figure out if your baby is at risk for different genetic conditions. NIPS looks at fragments of fetal and placental DNA, called cell-free DNA, found in a pregnant person’s blood.

The goal of the screen is to determine whether the pregnancy has an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities – specifically Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18), and Patau syndrome (trisomy 13). Research shows that NIPS is highly reliable — think: 97% to 99% accuracy — in predicting the risk of these genetic conditions.

Some NIPS tests can also detect sex chromosome abnormalities which involve missing or extra X or Y chromosomes. Because of this, NIPS can also tell you your baby’s sex if you want to know!

It is important to remember that NIPS is not a diagnostic test. It can tell you if your pregnancy is at risk for a chromosomal abnormality, but it can’t 100% confirm whether a chromosome condition or other genetic conditions are actually present. One of the major benefits of NIPS is that it’s a safe way to help you and your healthcare provider decide if you want to have invasive diagnostic testing, such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis. 

When can I get tested?

You can have NIPS during or after the ninth gestational week of your pregnancy, which is earlier than most other diagnostic or screening tests.

Is non-invasive prenatal screening safe?

Yes! NIPS is a non-invasive approach to prenatal genetic screening. Because it only requires a quick sampling of blood from your arm or your fingertip, it’s completely safe for both you and your baby. With the results from your NIPS, you and your healthcare provider have a way to assess the risk of certain fetal genetic abnormalities without any risk of miscarriage, infection, or preterm labor from the test itself.

Non-invasive prenatal screening (also called non-invasive prenatal testing, or NIPT) is one way to figure out if your baby is at risk for different genetic conditions.

Should I get tested?

If you want to know if there’s an increased chance of your pregnancy having a common chromosomal disorder, NIPS may give you the answers you’re seeking. Any pregnant person is eligible for testing, including those pregnant with twins.

Before getting tested, talk to your healthcare provider about NIPS. You might even consider asking to meet with a genetic counselor to discuss NIPS and your specific concerns during pregnancy. They’ll be able to explain the benefits and limitations of different types of genetic screening, so you can make an informed decision about NIPS and any other reproductive genetic testing.

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September 30, 2022 — Stephanie McClintock