Younger mothers miss out on free prenatal tests
7 June 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Rejecting advice from the Health Council, State Secretary Clemence Ross has decided against allowing pregnant women under the age of 36 to undergo a free test to determine if their unborn child has Down Syndrome or spina bifida.
7 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — Rejecting advice from the Health Council, State Secretary Clemence Ross has decided against allowing pregnant women under the age of 36 to undergo a free test to determine if their unborn child has Down Syndrome or spina bifida.
The junior health minister informed MPs on Monday that the government will only pay for prenatal tests conducted on women above the age of 36. This is despite advice in April from the Health Council urging the government to fund testing for all pregnant women.
Ross said the costs — estimated at about EUR 100 million — are too high and outweigh the benefits of testing all unborn babies. The testing of 200,000 unborn babies would identify a disability in one out of every 20 cases.
Furthermore, Ross said pregnancy is an individual matter and the mother must therefore decide whether she wishes to undergo the prenatal screening, Dutch public news service NOS reported.
Pregnant women will continue to have the tests paid for by the Dutch government. The test is more reliable for women in that age group and the reliability of the test is reduced when conducted on the fetuses of younger women.
A large majority of MPs had demanded at the end of 2003 that the government set up a system where all pregnant women could undergo tests on their unborn child.
The Health Council had also issued similar advice three years ago. The recommendation had involved at that time a test that was less advanced then the present examination.
The new test is a combination of a neck fold measurement on the unborn child and a blood test. The test should occur in the 11th week of a pregnancy.
If the results indicate that there is a risk of disability, the woman can then opt to undergo a chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis to obtain greater certainty.
The Health Council had also advised that pregnant women should have the possibility to undergo an ultrasound to diagnose a possible case of spina bifida. The council said the test can be conducted at 20 weeks.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news