Another study, which Sally Zamadics participated in, urges women to be tested earlier in their pregnancy. Zamadics is four months pregnant and this week she's getting an ultrasound. She's no stranger to them. Zamadics had a baby four years ago. While pregnant, she participated in a Down Syndrome study at Swedish Medical Center which required "extra" ultrasounds and blood tests.
"I think it's really important because it gives women additional information about their pregnancy that they normally will not have," Zamadics said.
More than 33,000 women from 11 different medical centers around the U.S. participated in the study. Three thousand of the women were from Swedish, which was the only medical center in Washington that participated.
Usually women get blood tests to check for Down Syndrome in their second trimester. During the study they got blood tests in their first trimester, along with an ultrasound to check the thickness of the back of the fetus' neck. The thicker that area, the higher the risk of Down syndrome and other disorders.
Dr. David Luthy, the director of Swedish Medical Center's Division of Perinatal Medicine says, "the advantage of first trimester is that women can get an answer earlier in their pregnancy without having to wait until very late in the second trimester."
Researchers also say testing mothers in the first and second trimesters allows doctors to pinpoint potential problems more accurately. That could reduce the number of unnecessary amniocentesis tests. It can also give women earlier reassurance that their baby is OK.
First trimester screening services are available at Swedish Medical Center and Eastside Maternal Fetal Medicine in Kirkland.
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