New DNA testing for unborn babies launches at The Royal London Hospital | Our news

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New DNA testing for unborn babies launches at The Royal London Hospital

Image of a baby in a cot being tagged by a nurse.

New DNA testing for unborn babies launches at The Royal London Hospital

A new way of testing the DNA of unborn babies will help pregnant women at The Royal London Hospital to receive targeted care and avoid unnecessary treatment.

Cell-free foetal DNA testing (cffDNA) has now been rolled out at The Royal London Hospital to analyse unborn babies’ blood type through a simple test on the mother’s blood.

Until now, all pregnant women who are blood group RhD negative have been offered ‘anti-D’ injections to prevent them forming antibodies which could cause anaemia in their unborn baby in future pregnancies. However, in around forty per cent of pregnancies the baby will also be RhD negative which does not put women at risk of forming antibodies, so some women had been receiving the injections unnecessarily. 

The new test will allow midwives to deliver injections to only the women who need them. Whipps Cross and Newham Hospitals will soon follow suit, with an estimated 800 women every year avoiding unnecessary treatment. With 15 per cent of women in the UK blood type RhD negative, in financial terms nearly £30,000 will be saved across Barts Health NHS Trust each year through reduced additional testing and treatment of women with RhD negative babies.

Catherine Booth, Specialist Registrar in Haematology at The Royal London Hospital said: “This testing will help us to reduce unnecessary exposure of women to anti-D, which is a scarce resource we must use wisely. It is a great example of a new technology which benefits individual women, hospitals and the whole blood service.”


Notes to Editors

The Royal London Hospital is one of four London hospitals to offer this new test.

Barts Health NHS Trust
With a turnover of £1.4 billion and a workforce of around 16,000, Barts Health is the largest NHS trust in the country, and one of Britain’s leading healthcare providers. The Trust’s five hospitals – St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City, including the Barts Heart Centre, The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, Newham University Hospital in Plaistow, Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone and Mile End – deliver high quality compassionate care to the 2.5 million people of East London and beyond.


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