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New Test Helps Put Expectant Moms At Ease

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Expecting mothers are finding out more about their unborn children earlier thanks to new advances in medical technology. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

New York City resident Dana James knew she wanted a baby. But at 38-years-old, she was worried about the health of her unborn child.

"I wanted to do all of the tests," recalls James.

But she was scared of complications associated with amniocentesis, a procedure where fluid is drawn from the amniotic sack with a large needle to to test for genetic abnormalities.

"It was the fact that I'm older, and I want to have a kid and if you do an amnio you have that chance of having a miscarriage. So is it really worth it?" says James.

Expecting parents now have a new, non-invasive, and more affordable option available to them. It's called the Harmony Prenatal Test from Ariosa Diagnostics and costs around $800.

There are several more expensive options available that cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000.

All of the tests screen for abnormalities in the fetus and may even reveal the sex of the baby starting at 10 weeks of pregnancy.

"We are able to make analysis on fragments of a DNA that's free-flowing in the mother's blood," says Dr. Anna Rhee, an OBGYN at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital.

It's as simple as drawing blood, sending a sample off to the lab and 10 days later you get your results.

"We're able to sequence it out and be able to tell whether there are extra chromosome pieces of 21 or 18 and 13," says Dr. Rhee.

Which indicate, with 99 percent accuracy, whether the child will be born with genetic disorders like Down Syndrome.

"It's changing the way we practice. It's making our patients feel more secure and to feel more comfortable with the tests that we offer to them," says Dr. Rhee.

There are some concerns though with the advances in prenatal testing, sparking a philosophical debate about whether this earlier knowledge will lead to more abortions.

For James it was important to be informed. Her test showed no signs of abnormalities.

"It was right around Christmas when we found out so we got to go home and tell everyone the news and be really excited. It was a joyful time," recalls James.

The non-invasive prenatal tests are recommended for women age 35 and older and is covered by some insurance.

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