DNA testing, also known as genetic testing or carrier screening, early in pregnancy gives you the opportunity to learn more about your baby. You can find out the sex of the baby, the father of the baby and whether the baby has certain diseases. The information you learn can give you the time to adjust, if needed, before the baby arrives.
DNA testing can begin as early as five weeks into your pregnancy. The “Boston Globe” in 2005 reported that you can even use a home blood test to determine the sex of your baby. The lab that analyzes the tests evaluates fetal DNA appearing in your blood and determines whether the baby is male or female. You can have other tests, like paternity tests, starting at 10 weeks into your gestational period, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
DNA tests can analyze your blood, the amniotic fluid or tissue. In a blood test, you provide the sample. In other tests, a doctor will extract DNA with a thin needle. Two tests the American Pregnancy Association reports you can use for paternity testing include chorionic villus sampling, a DNA test that uses pieces of tissue attached to the uterus, and amniocentesis, which tests the amniotic fluid. The Parents website magazine reports your doctor can use carrier screening to look for cystic fibrosis, fragile X syndrome, sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sach’s disease or thalassemia.
Certain pregnancy factors can increase the chance your doctor may recommend genetic testing. If you have a family history of inherited illness, are more than 34 years old, have had two or more miscarriages, have delivered a stillborn baby with genetic defects present or have one child with genetic defects, doctors may recommend testing DNA, according to the Kids Health website.
While DNA testing can provide valuable information, some organizations fear people will use the tests in unethical ways. The Kids Health website promotes caution when it comes to testing. While tests can reveal a genetic defect like cystic fibrosis, they cannot predict the severity of the defect. The Kids Health website also points out environmental factors can play a role in whether a genetic defect becomes a serious problem.
There are risks involved in DNA testing during pregnancy. The Mayo Clinic provides a list, which includes miscarriage; cramping; vaginal bleeding; infection; Rh sensitization, a condition that allows your baby’s blood to enter your bloodstream; leaking amniotic fluid; or injury to the baby from the needle. The information you learn from the test may cause emotional or psychological stress.
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