Since its inception in year NIPT has been the standard for assessing the risk of genetic abnormalities in what are considered “high risk” pregnancies. NIPT works by collecting small fragments of DNA, commonly referred to as cell-free DNA (cfDNA) that are present in a pregnant woman’s blood and analyzing them for markers associated with genetic abnormalities. If you’d like to learn more about how the science works, we’ve got a blog for that. Previously – the standard to assess this risk was with highly invasive procedures like amniocentesis or CVS (chorionic villus sampling), both of which have a risk for miscarriage. Thanks to NIPT, women can screen for those abnormalities without the risk associated with those procedures. Best of all – NIPT is available to mothers after 10 weeks, only requires a simple blood draw, has no risk for a miscarriage for the fetus, or any risk of significant harm to the mother, and it’s being offered to more and more mothers as coverage picks up.
The biggest roadblock for NIPT currently is insurance coverage. Like we mentioned earlier – NIPT is only covered by many major insurers when the pregnancy is deemed high risk. We’re staunch advocates that NIPT should be available for all mothers. Here’s why:
Reason #1 – NIPT only requires a simple blood draw
While a simple blow draw isn’t entirely noninvasive, it’s still demonstrably less risky and painful than the existing alternatives. Best of all – most NIPS tests only require one or two vials of blood, so a quick stop at the lab and you’re on your way!
Reason #2 – No risk for miscarriage
Before we go any further, we need to clarify that amniocentesis and CVS are absolutely necessary, helpful diagnostics that have their place in prenatal healthcare. But they are also both highly invasive procedures that involve needles that many would describe as “giant” and notably carry a risk for miscarriage. Both procedures can cause miscarriages in 1 out of 100 procedures. They are both also tests, not to be confused with NIPT, which is a screen. The key difference here is that amniocentesis and CVS give you a clear yes/no answer, whereas NIPT provides you with the likelihood of the presence of genetic abnormalities.
Providing NIPT as an initial screen means that CVS and amniocentesis should only be used as a confirmatory diagnostic – reducing the number of unnecessary procedures and as a result, miscarriage risk.
Reason #3 – Coverage is growing
When NIPT was launched, it only got limited coverage by the biggest insurance companies. To this day, only high-risk pregnancies get full coverage. Recent developments in the efficacy of NIPT have called into question whether or not it should be available for all expectant mothers. We certainly believe so. Finally – states like California and some large payers like our partners at UPMC are expanding coverage to all mothers regardless of risk level.
Reason #4 – NIPT is driving science forward that benefits all mothers
Currently – data gained from NIPT is helping develop and inform tests for other pregnancy complications like miscarriage, preterm birth, and preeclampsia. We believe in a future where NIPT not only can determine the risk for genetic abnormalities but also help healthcare providers make better informed decisions about all prenatal care. The safer pregnancies become for mothers – the safer they are for their children.
Wrapping things up
These 4 reasons why NIPT is important for all expectant mothers are just the tip of the iceberg. NIPT is positioned to become a limitless resource for mothers in the years to come. We’re proud to be leading research alongside our parent company SignatureDx to developing new diagnostics that will accomplish exactly that. Make sure to watch this space for more exciting new developments!