Noninvasive prenatal testing will be made available at a wider range of medical institutions if revised guidelines win health ministry approval, the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology said Saturday.
The organization revised the guidelines on the prenatal testing to allow smaller medical institutions, such as obstetrics and gynecology practitioners, to provide prenatal tests if they gain certification through lectures and exams.
The society got approval for the revision from both the Japan Pediatric Society and the Japan Society of Human Genetics, which are wary about expanding such testing, by getting pediatric doctors involved in the testing and certification systems.
The new prenatal testing method, introduced in 2013, checks blood samples from pregnant women to detect possible chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome in their babies.
Because critics say such testing could put parents in a tough position on choosing whether to have abortions, the society drew up guidelines and set up a system that allows only medical institutions staffed by specialist counselors to conduct the noninvasive tests.
But the number of facilities that conduct such tests without adequate counselling or the proper certifications has climbed sharply. Last year, the society announced plans to revise the guidelines to raise the number of medical institutions that can conduct the new tests.
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