Last week, hospitals canceled first trimester screening for pregnant women in connection with the ongoing emergency situation. In its stead, however, the Health Insurance Fund began funding non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) as of March 17, which will still allow for the early detection of more common chromosomal disorders.
According to the Health Insurance Fund, they began funding the NIPT at the request of the Estonian Gynecologists' Society (ENS). All women whose combined first trimester screening, also known as the OSCAR test (One-stop Clinic for Assessment of Risk for Fetal Anomalies), was canceled due to the emergency situation will be eligible for free NIPT testing.
Those who had already paid for the testing out of pocket before the funding decision was made should contact the hospital where their testing was conducted for a refund. The hospital, in turn, will submit a bill to the Health Insurance Fund.
The decision does not extend to those women whose first trimester screening was already completed and their risk of chromosomal abnormalities determined to be low.
In the case of multiple pregnancies, however, both the first trimester screening and, if necessary, the NIPT are to be done.
According to the ENS, the NIPT is an evidence-based method that allows for the early discovery of the most common chromosomal abnormalities.
The NIPT is a non-invasive screening method that only requires drawing blood from the mother, usually around weeks 10-13 of pregnancy. As it can be used to diagnose various chromosomal abnormalities, it provides an effective replacement for the standard first trimester screening.
Until the updated decision, only pregnant women belonging to risk groups could get the testing done for free. The ENS, however, sought to have testing expanded to include all pregnant women in order to ensure continued quality of care.
"NIPT testing allows for the discovery of the majority of yet-undiscovered cases of chromosomal abnormalities," said Tanel Kaju, a chief specialist at the Health Insurance Fund. "The sample taken of the mother's blood helps specify the risk for various abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, Edwards syndrome and Patau syndrome."
The ENS is strongly urging all pregnant women to remain at home and avoid all contact that isn't strictly necessary, as the novel coronavirus is new and it is yet unknown how it may affect fetuses.
Editor: Aili Vahtla