For about $800, an American lab would analyze the fetal DNA circulating in Ms. Owens’s blood and tell her as early as 10 weeks into her pregnancy if she was carrying a baby with the chromosomal anomalies that cause Down syndrome and a few other, less common, conditions.
“Once I found out about this test,” Ms. Owens said, “I refused to wait until I was in my second trimester. I had to know right away.”
The desire of women like Ms. Owens to know as much as possible about their pregnancies as early as possible is behind a quiet revolution in prenatal screening in Canada and other developed countries.
A new generation of simple blood tests is allowing would-be parents to learn about the sex and potential genetic anomalies of their babies in the first trimester, a stage of the pregnancy when it’s relatively easy to get an abortion in Canada.