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Pre-natal testing causing miscarriages

17 August 2007

Prenatal tests for Down's syndrome could cause women to miscarry their healthy babies, according to a British doctor. Dr Hylton Meire, formerly of King's College Hospital, London, warned that the amniocentesis test can be needlessly invasive and can lead to miscarriages of unborn children. Writing in Ultrasound, he calculated that there are 160 healthy babies lost for every 50 cases of Down's or Edwards' syndrome detected. [Telegraph, 16 August]

A British woman whose daughter's leukaemia was treated with stem cells from an American umbilical cord bank has called for more cords to be saved. Ms Amy Winston-Hart said there should be a larger and more integrated system of cord banks in Britain. She said: "I feel this is something the government needs to invest more money [in]. Childhood cancers are on the increase and something needs to be done. It is a natural, life-saving resource that is currently being wasted. If it wasn't for that one couple who decided to freeze the blood from that cord, then [my daughter] might not be here today." [BBC, 15 August]

Baby growth charts used in England could be replaced with ones which reflect the growth-rate of breastfed children. The new charts from the World Health Organisation are for babies aged two weeks to 24 months. They should allay the fears of mothers who breastfeed and are worried that their babies are not growing fast enough, as babies fed on formula milk tend to grow faster. Ms Dawn Primarolo MP, public health minister, said the charts would be assessed in a pilot study. She said: "We are committed to promoting breastfeeding and these new standards will help alleviate mothers' concerns regarding the difference in growth." [BBC, 13 August]

Chemical abortions are similar to surgical abortion in terms of their threat to further pregnancies, according to American researchers. Scientists from the University of California noted no major differences between the subsequent pregnancy of women who had had an abortion induced by drugs such as mifepristone and those who had had a surgical abortion. Dr Jasveer Virk and colleagues found that rates of premature birth, miscarriage and low birth rate were similar in both groups. [Reuters, 15 August]

The Chinese government has launched a surveillance programme that will include close monitoring of population control. All Chinese citizens, starting in the southern city of Shenzhen, must carry a residence permit encoded with a computer chip, which will store data on their whereabouts, education records and the number of their children under the one child policy. Television systems with software that can recognise faces are also being set up. [Telegraph, 16 August]

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