Perinatal screening

The majority of pregnancies are problem-free. Fortunately, most children come into the world in perfect health. Screenings during pregnancy and shortly after birth can identify any complications, diseases or disorders at an early stage, whereupon treatment can be offered. A screening during pregnancy is termed ‘prenatal’; that after birth is termed ‘postnatal’ and together they are known as ‘perinatal’ screenings.

Pregnant lady is heaving a echogram

The ‘Prenatal Screening for Infectious Diseases and Erythrocyte Immunisation’ (PSIE) is conducted during the first trimester, i.e. before the 13th week of pregnancy. It involves a simple blood test and an echogram to identify any abnormally high risk of Down Syndrome. A further echogram is taken at twenty weeks to detect any physical abnormalities.
Soon after birth, the baby is given the Guthrie test, also known as the ‘heel prick’. This involves taking a very small sample of blood from the baby’s heel, which is then tested in the lab for serious but treatable diseases. The baby’s hearing is also tested.

What RIVM does

Perinatal screenings form part of the national population screening programme. RIVM is responsible for their coordination and direction. RIVM must ensure that all parties within the chain play their role as effectively as possible, with appropriate communication. We therefore produce guidelines, national agreements, intervention plans and information for both professionals and the general public.
At the regional level, the PSIE and heel prick are administered by the RIVM Regional Programme Coordination office. Other screening programmes are managed by external organizations. The population screenings are actually conducted by a chain of professionals and organizations who work closely together: midwives and obstetricians, echoscopists, gynaecologists, the Prenatal Screening Centres, youth health services and laboratories.

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