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Why All Parents Should Know About NIPT

With Rachel Hawkings, Mother of Four.

Anxiety around the health of a baby during pregnancy is common and the risk real. Chromosomal abnormalities which cause disabilities such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18) and Patau syndrome (trisomy 13) become more likely as mothers to be grow older, especially after 30 years of age. These abnormalities are now detectable with 99% accuracy at no risk to the baby by as soon as 10 weeks, with the bonus detection of an early gender reveal. This Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) is available through a simple Illumiscreen blood test at over 140 collection centres across New Zealand. Most importantly, as Rachel Hawkings of Hamilton, mother of four, confides to us in this interview, it brings “reassurance” and “peace of mind”

Rachel always wanted to be a mum and found that dream came true in her early 20s with her first child, Autumn [6], closely followed by Hazel [4] and Bodhi [3]. Fast forward to last year and her baby girl, June, was on her way. “Finding the right information and getting support around you is so important, says Rachel. During her pregnancy with June, Rachel was armed with the support and knowledge from a local Māori parents group ‘Hapū Wānanga’ a 2 day antenatal course whose motto is “My birth, my baby, my body” allowing Rachel to feel confident and in control of her pregnancy.

“Being only 27 years old, I didn’t feel my age would cause pregnancy risks to be high. However the idea of any risk for June, even small, was still causing anxiety” Rachel told us. Suffering from this all too familiar anxiety that many mothers go through around their pregnancy led Rachel to Illumiscreen NIPT and she testifies that “the reassurance and peace of mind was just so important”. Rachel found out about the NIPT screening through an Australian blogger online and confirmed it with her midwife that it was available throughout New Zealand. Rachel told us “I was shocked at the lack of people who knew about this incredible technology.” Rachel took the non-invasive blood test at 12 weeks and had the results in 6 days.

Getting the peace of mind for June’s health through the Illumiscreen NIPT turned out to be a very important decision. Early on Rachel experienced a Mother’s nightmare when it was discovered on the antenatal ultrasound that June had four cysts in the choroid plexus, a structure in the fluid-filled space of the brain (that makes cerebrospinal fluid), which is also a soft marker for trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome), one of the chromosomal abnormalities tested within NIPT. Illumiscreen was able to give Rachel the reassurance that June was not affected by this condition. Thankfully for Rachel and now 3 month old baby June, these cysts did resolve themselves and June was born healthy into the family of 3 other beautiful children.

“The NIPT test really put my mind at ease” says Rachel and when asked what she would say to expecting parents who aren’t sure she told us this: “If you’re someone that wants peace of mind I couldn’t recommend this more. It needs to get out there and all parents should know about it. It needs to be said that it’s so tried and true.”

Initially Rachel worried when making this decision. She told us “At the time I was thinking I hope this is real and legitimate. $600 is a lot of money.” and went on to explain that “The value of the test was worth the cost. That peace of mind is just so important!”

There are enough surprises in parenthood. How hard it really is, how many nappies you need to change, how much sleep you won’t get, and how your social life will be affected. The health of your baby doesn’t have to be one of them.