Press Releases

Jaime Herrera Beutler Pushes for Improved Prenatal Screening Education for Parents

Study shows that half of screenings produce inaccurate results; Jaime seeks to address inadequate patient education around prenatal screenings

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Washington, DC, June 30, 2015 | comments
Last week, a Jaime Herrera Beutler-authored provision to improve the use of prenatal screenings for expectant parents was approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.
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Last week, a Jaime Herrera Beutler-authored provision to improve the use of prenatal screenings for expectant parents was approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.   

Included in the 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill, this provision directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, to evaluate how providers currently educate patients about screenings.  It also requests a report on how CDC and other HHS agencies ensure patients and providers understand the accuracy and limitations of screenings.

These non-invasive prenatal screenings are blood tests that examine placental DNA in the maternal bloodstream.  The screenings can signal whether a baby is at risk for a chromosomal abnormality like Down syndrome; Edwards syndrome that can result in heart and kidney defects; and Patau syndrome that can cause neurological and physical abnormalities like small head size, structural eye defects, and extra fingers or toes.

Flawed screening results

A recent industry conducted study revealed that screening results indicating a baby is at high risk for a chromosomal condition can be inaccurate 50% of the time.  In another study, samples from two women who were not pregnant were sent to five testing companies for analysis.  Three companies returned samples indicating they came from a woman who was carrying a healthy baby.

Patients unaware of inaccurate data
The New England Center for Investigative Reporting conducted a three month examination where it found companies that create the tests are not always accurately representing the significant risk of false alarms to physicians and patients. Additionally, physicians aren’t required to follow the medical professional guidelines to educate parents about the risk of false results.

“Expectant parents can face a lot of anxiety during pregnancy, and that’s why they need the most accurate information possible when it comes to prenatal screenings,” said Jaime. “Prenatal screenings can be a valuable tool, but they are far from perfect.  They can detect a potential problem or a likelihood of risk, but they are not a conclusive diagnostic test.  As a mom who received difficult news about my own pregnancy, I want other expectant parents to have full and accurate information about the benefits and limits of the information that’s being presented to them. This report is a good first step toward equipping parents to make the best possible decisions for their families.”  

 Jaime’s legislative provision is supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, March of Dimes, the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, and the National Down Syndrome Society. 

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