The Harmony Prenatal Test finds a foetus’ DNA cells in the mother’s blood and checks them for signs of chromosomal abnormalities.
A trial of 2,049 women, conducted by Harris Birthright Research Centre for Foetal Medicine, found the prenatal test to be 99% accurate and suitable for mass screening.
Currently women are offered a Nuchal Translucency Test at 12 weeks to see if their baby is at a high or low risk of the genetic disorder.
High-risk women are then advised to have the invasive second-stage test, where a needle is inserted into the womb to remove amniotic fluid or a piece of placenta for genetic testing.
This has a 1 in 100 chance of causing a miscarriage.
For every 10,000 pregnant women, 527 need the second-stage test, but the new prenatal test would cut the number to just 10.
“The test is highly accurate for routine screening of all pregnant women, not just those deemed high risk,” said Professor Kypros Nicolaides of the Harris Birthright Research Centre for Foetal Medicine at King’s College Hosiptal in London.
Scientists believe the NHS will adopt the new test within 5 years.