Evaluation of the introduction of the national Down syndrome screening program in the Netherlands: age-related uptake of prenatal screening and invasive diagnostic testing

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Objective To study the effect of different government prenatal screening (PNS) policies on the uptake of PNS and prenatal diagnostic testing (PND) over the periods 2001-2003 (PNS on request), 2004-2006 (permission to offer the first-trimester combined test (FCT) to women of advanced maternal age (AMA), with women aged <36 years informed on explicit request) and 2007-2010 (introduction of population screening) and to evaluate whether trends in uptake are related to maternal age. The indication AMA for PND is still warranted, and the costs for FCT are only reimbursed for AMA women. Study design Analysis of data on the first- and second-trimester screening program (n = 41,600) for Down syndrome (DS) and on PND (n = 10,795) performed from 2001 to 2010 in the region North-Holland of the Netherlands. To evaluate the actual participation in PNS and PND in different maternal age groups, estimation of the age distribution of women who underwent a fetal anomaly scan in 2009 (n = 14,481) was used as a reference population (participation of 85.2%). Results The overall uptake of FCT was 35.2% in 2010. Over the years the number of FCT in all age groups increased significantly (P < 0.001). Overall the number of PND decreased significantly; the number of PND for AMA decreased and the number of PND for increased risk at FCT (in women <36 and ≥36 years) increased (P < 0.05). Since 2004 significantly more DS cases were detected with FCT in AMA women and fewer with PND for AMA, and since 2007 more DS cases were detected with FCT in women <36 years (P < 0.001). Conclusion The effect of the national screening program is limited. Significantly more women opt for PNS but the overall uptake remains low, especially in younger women. A significant number of AMA women still opt for PND for AMA. The choice for FCT and PND for AMA seems dependent on background risk. To accomplish a more effective screening policy, reimbursement of the cost of the test should apply to all women and the indication for PND for AMA should be abolished. © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-63
JournalEuropean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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