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No more guessing what color to paint the nursery - scientists have discovered a new blood test that may be able to tell pregnant women if they're going to have a boy or a girl, as early as seven weeks into the pregnancy!
The test scans the mother's blood for fetal DNA, analyzing for fragments of the Y (male) chromosome. If present in the mother's blood, she's carrying a boy, but if absent, it's a girl. The test is about 95 percent accurate when the women are at least seven weeks pregnant - more than a month earlier than conventional methods like ultrasounds, which are usually scheduled during the second trimester. And the simple blood test is safer than other gender determination procedures, such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis, which carry a small risk of miscarriage. This could be a major breakthough for families with a history of gender-linked diseases, like hemophilia. If the fetus at risk is a gender not affected by the disorder, it could help parents avoid the need for more invasive tests or procedures.
The test could be a major breakthough for families with a history of gender-linked diseases, like hemophilia. If the fetus at risk is a gender not affected by the disorder, it could help parents avoid the need for more invasive tests or procedures. But many experts have raised ethical concerns about the implications of this news. Will couples take advantage of the blood screen to select the sex of their child? Using abortion to select for gender is already a major problem in some Asian countries. In fact, research has shown rising numbers of women in India who already have daughters, choosing to have abortions when prenatal tests show they are carrying another girl. This is despite India's existing ban on gender testing.
“In an ideal world, if there's a serious or life-threatening genetic problem with the fetus, I understand people will want to end this pregnancy and try again,” says Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. “But when you're talking about picking a baby's sex, doctors shouldn't offer the test, companies shouldn't offer it, and we should tell people that's not a good reason to have an abortion.”
The test is not routinely done by doctors in the United States, partly because it's not always covered by insurers. But a company based in Santa Clara, California, sells an early gender blood test online called "Pink or Blue." Consumer Genetics charges $25 for the test plus $265 or more for lab testing. Terry Carmichael, the company's executive vice president, says they sell more than 1,000 kits a year.
We want to know what you think - would you take an early gender test, or would you wait for the ultrasound?