Scientists at Chinese University of Hong Kong have developed a test which requires only a tiny sample of mother's blood to identify the genetic diseases in an unborn child.

The non-invasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD) test analyses traces of a fetus’ DNA in its mother’s bloodstream to reveal a number of genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia.

Currently used diagnostic techniques such as amniocentesis involve inserting a needle in the womb, which can cause miscarriage in about one in 100 pregnancies.

The new test completely eliminates the dangers of amniocentesis, and can also provide the result eight weeks earlier than the currently used methods – which can give women more time to decide whether to proceed with the pregnancy or have an abortion.