If you are pregnant and currently in between 10 to 14 weeks of gestation, it’s time to submit yourself to one of the pregnancy tests which is known as the nuchal translucency scan (NT scan).
It’s to measure the nuchal area which is a normal skinfold situated at the back of your baby’s neck. This test can be conducted when you are about to end your first trimester or during the start of your second trimester.
To put it simply, your doctor will measure the thickness of clear space located at the back of the neck of your foetus.
This is to determine whether they are at risk of developing defects related to chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, Patau syndrome and Edward’s syndrome.
For these reasons, most women would feel anxious. However, knowing your NT scan result can give you a peace of your mind or prepare you for what’s to come.
How does NT scan work?
In Malaysia, the overall rate of incidence for Down Syndrome is 1 in 800 births. The increment of risk is proportional to the mother’s age. This means, the older you are at the time of conception, the higher the risk.
Down syndrome is considered one of the most common genetic abnormalities. The other two are rare and often fatal in their first year of life.
If there are some abnormalities during the cell division, depending on which pair of chromosomes were affected, they can be afflicted by one of those diseases.
During the NT scan, apart from using the ultrasound machine, blood investigation will also be carried out to measure the level of pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin along with circulating plasma protein.
Both of these parameters can provide a non-specific clue pointing towards the diagnosis of chromosomal abnormalities.
Your doctor or an experienced operator will conduct an abdominal ultrasound which utilises high frequency sound waves.
This will allow us to see the structure and navigate through the inside to see what’s happening in there.
Through NT scan, your baby’s nuchal fold can be measured to predict the risk of chromosomal abnormalities potentially lying dormant, ready to surprise you once they are out and about.
Screening test vs diagnostic test
It’s not easy, especially for a new mother to hear that they have an abnormal NT scan result.
What does that mean? Is my child alright? Are they going to live?
If you are at the receiving end, you would be confused and have lots of questions. Don’t worry though. Even if you were told that the result of your NT scan was abnormal or inconclusive, it doesn’t mean your child has chromosomal abnormalities.
Know that NT scan only enables us to predict the risk of getting a child with such defects. It’s a useful screen test however, far from being diagnostic.
In order to confirm, you have to proceed with a diagnostic test. It’s a test which confirms the presence of a condition or disease that has been singled out by your preliminary screening test.
There are a variety of options and usually they are quite invasive. Certain tests can only be done at a certain point of time, so ask your doctor about it and be sure to understand the benefits and risks of carrying out such tests.
NT scan might be non-confirming but it is a safe and noninvasive test. It does no harm to either you or your baby. There is no reason why you shouldn’t submit yourself to NT scan so talk to your doctor now and get tested.
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