The number of prenatal tests for diagnosing chromosomal abnormalities using amniocentesis in Japan reached around 20,000 in 2012, up 4,000 from the previous year and double the figure 10 years earlier, reflecting an increase in late childbearing, a survey showed Friday.

The number of serum marker tests for mothers to check for the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities, including Down syndrome, also rose, coming to more than 22,000, the highest since 1998, when officials began compiling comparable data, according to the survey by the National Center for Child Health and Development.

"We need to discuss prenatal diagnosis more closely, as the numbers of these tests will continue rising," said Haruhiko Sago, senior official at the center.

The number of diagnoses by amniocentesis stayed at around 10,000 to 11,000 from 1998 to 2006 but started rising gradually from 2007 to reach 19,937 in 2012, compared with 9,926 in 2002, the research showed.

Serum marker tests are used to screen pregnant women for the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities. If they are suspected, amniocentesis tests are conducted to confirm the diagnosis.

They have an accuracy rate of almost 100 percent.

On the rise in prenatal tests, Tomoko Yonezu, a member of a group of physically disabled women, said the practice could result in playing judge over who should be born and who shouldn't.

"We first need to create a society where disabled children can be raised in common with ordinary children and pregnant women do not have to worry about whether their babies have abnormalities," Yonezu said. "We should not impose silent pressure on women to go through with prenatal tests."