The Harmony Test: Everything you Need to Know
Announcing a pregnancy is an exciting time, but there’s often concern about when to share the happy news with friends and family. Most women opt to wait until that all-important 12-week scan before making their big announcement.
This is because a screening test is carried out at 12 weeks to check all is well with the baby during the first trimester of pregnancy. The scan includes an ultrasound, where jelly is rubbed onto mum’s tummy and sound waves are used to produce an image of the fetus. This is also known as the dating scan, as it’s the time the baby’s expected due date will be revealed.
At this point, a combined screening test is carried out to help detect the risk of the baby having a chromosomal abnormality, such as Down’s Syndrome. If the results of these screening tests come back as ‘high risk’, more diagnostic tests such as as chrorionic villus sampling or an amniocentesis will be offered. But these are not without their risks, and involve and invasive procedure where tissue from the placenta or fluid from the around the baby is taken and tested.
However, non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is now available in the UK. Most commonly known as the Harmony Test, so here’s everything you need to know about the screening.
What is the standard 12-week screening test?
In order to understand whether the Harmony Test is worth taking, it’s important to know what the standard 12-week screening involves. The ultrasound scan checks that the baby is growing well, but its main purpose is to look at the translucent or clear space in the tissue at the back of your baby’s neck, hence the name ‘nuchal translucency scan’.
The baby’s nasal bone is also measured. Babies with abnormalities tend to accumulate more fluid behind the neck and have absent nasal bones.
Does the scan have to be done at exactly 12 weeks?
For this test to be accurate, the check-up must be done between 10 and 14 weeks. It does not give you a clear cut answer regarding chromosomal abnormality, simply an idea of whether you are high or low risk.
If high risk, you may be advised to have chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis, which is the only 100% accurate way of testing for chromosomal abnormalities. However, these tests carry an associated risk of miscarriage (only around 1%).
So, what is the Harmony Test?
The Harmony Test is the most well-known brand of non-invasive prenatal testing, and works by detecting the baby’s DNA in the mother’s blood from a simple blood test. By detecting this DNA, a more accurate assessment of genetic abnormalities, including Down’s, Edward’s or Patau syndrome, can be determined.
Currently, the Harmony Test is the most widely available NIPT in the UK, but other tests that cover a wider range of chromosomal abnormalities are becoming increasingly available in private clinics, such as the MaterniT21 Plus and VisibiliT.
Is the Harmony Test available on the NHS? How much does it cost?
Unfortunately, the Harmony Test is not available on the NHS. Private clinics in the UK offer the Harmony Test and other types of NIPT, however, they come with a high price tag.
Currently, the cost for one scan and subsequent testing is around £300-£500.
How accurate is the Harmony Test?
While the Harmony Test is expensive, it’s claimed this method of non-invasive testing is 99% accurate. But is worth knowing the standard test is still 93% accurate.
Some couples start with the standard test and if there are any concerns may then choose to have the Harmony Test rather than the CVS or amniocentesis, currently offered via the NHS.
When is the best time to have the Harmony Test?
There is a time limit on when you can have the test, so it’s important to have the initial screening as early as possible. It’s recommended to take the test between 10 and 12 weeks, as it may be necessary to take further tests (including an amniocentesis) if the results are positive.
Is the Harmony Test a fact or a fad?
Most professionals agree that the Harmony Test is an exciting medical development, which in the future may prevent the miscarriage of healthy fetuses through invasive DNA testing.
The NHS is stretched financially, so clearly it cannot always offer the newest, cutting edge tests immediately. For those mothers who have a history of genetic abnormalities, or are slightly older and therefore at increased risk, and can afford it, the Harmony Test is worth doing.
That said, think carefully about what you want to know. Sometimes the results necessitate a difficult decision on whether or not to terminate the pregnancy.
However, if you have decided to keep your baby regardless of the result, you may as well save your money. The likelihood of your child being diagnosed with a chromosomal abnormality is nevertheless small.
So, while it’s sensible to keep your exciting news to yourself and close friends, the likelihood is that at your 12-week scan you’ll see a healthy, perfectly formed fetus, kicking around in your tummy and you’ll be given the green light to share your news.
Are there any other non-invasive prenatal tests?
NIPTs in the UK are offered under brand names, although the Harmony Test is the most well known, other brands include Nifty, Panorama and Verify.
Where can I go for the Harmony Test in London?
92 Harley Street
London W1G 7HU
020 7034 1300
35 Devonshire Place
London W1G 6JP
020 7935 6500
The Birth Company
137 Harley Street
London W1G 6BF
020 7725 0528
The Fetal Medicine Centre
137 Harley Street
London W1G 6BG
020 7486 0476
The Gynae Centre
7 Queen Ann Street
London W1G 9HN
020 7580 8090
The Harley Street Centre for Women
78 Harley Street
London W1G 7HJ
020 7034 8969/8945
The London Ultrasound Centre
112 Harley Street
London W1G 7JQ
020 7908 3878
The Medical Chambers Kensington
10 Knaresborough Place
London SW5 0TG
020 7244 4200
The Portland Hospital
205 – 209 Great Portland Street
London W1W 5AH
020 7390 6068
Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital
Imperial Private Healthcare
Du Cane Road
London W12 OHS
020 3311 3925
Women’s Ultrasound Centre
86 Harley Street
London W1G 7HP
020 7636 6765
The Women’s Wellness Centre
274 Fulham Road
London SW10 9EW
020 7751 4488