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Patient care begins at conception

Patient care begins at conception
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Like many other women, when Erica Praedin found out she was pregnant, she was ecstatic, then the worry began to set in. “Our baby’s health was on the top of our minds for us every waking moment,” she remembers.

And, when her obstetrician asked if she wanted the sequential screen, she wasn’t sure – not sure what it
was, and not sure what she would do with the results.

The sequential screen is a non-invasive test that identifies the risk of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality such as Trisomy 18, Down Syndrome, or an open neural tube defect, such as spina bifida.

“The sequential screen doesn’t diagnose a baby,” explains Jolene Seibel-Seamon, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Virtua. “It’s a very sensitive test that identifies a percentage risk. The results can be used to determine if further diagnostic testing may be needed or can be avoided all together.”

Diagnostic tests such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS), which examines chromosomes in the placenta; or an amniocentesis, which extracts cells from the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby, are invasive, but can accurately diagnose abnormalities in the baby.

The sequential screen has two parts.

The first takes place when the baby is just 10-14 weeks old. It involves an ultrasound of the fetus that measures the back of the baby’s neck and a sample of the mother’s blood.

“A blood sample from the mother and measurements from the baby, together with the mother’s age determine an initial risk assessment,” says Dr. Seibel-Seamon.

“The last part of the test requires a blood sample from mom taken anytime between 15 and 22 weeks,” says Dr. Seibel-Seamon. After this, the test is complete, and both parts are used to determine the results, which are given to the parents.

“Virtua’s maternal-fetal medicine program is comprehensive,” says Dr. Seibel-Seamon. “Not only do we perform the test on equipment that provides the sharpest images, we read the results right here and have genetic counselors in our office to help patients through the process.”