How to Decide Which Prenatal Tests are Best for You
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant women be offered prenatal genetic testing, regardless of age. This means that every expectant mother may face the question of whether to undergo prenatal testing.
It is important to gather accurate information in order to make informed decisions regarding the various options for genetic prenatal screenings and genetic prenatal tests.
Decide Why You Want to Get Prenatal Testing
Before making any decisions it is important to understand why you want to know if your child is at risk of having a chromosomal abnormality or an inherited genetic disorder:
Do you want to use the information to make more informed decisions regarding pregnancy care?
Do you want time to learn about the specific disorder?
Do you want time to prepare for necessary medical care for your child?
If you know how you would use the information gathered from prenatal testing, then this can help you decide which tests are right for you.
Do Your Research
There are two main types of prenatal genetic tests: prenatal screening tests and prenatal diagnostic tests.
Prenatal screening tests are non - or minimally invasive and will show your doctor the risk that your baby may have a certain chromosomal or inherited genetic disorder.
Types of prenatal screening tests include:
Genetic carrier screening - A blood test done on parents to see if an individual carries a genetic mutation associated with a certain genetic disorder.
Noninvasive prenatal genetic testing - A blood test that uses a sample of blood from the mother to analyze DNA from the placenta that belongs to the fetus.
Ultrasound exams - An imaging test used to monitor the structures and organs of the fetus.
Blood tests - A test where a blood sample is taken from the mother and analyzed for certain substances, such as hormones and proteins.
Prenatal diagnostic tests are more invasive and involve collecting a sample of cells from the fetus or the placenta. Results from these tests will tell your doctor if your baby definitively has a chromosomal disorder or a genetic condition.
Types of prenatal diagnostic tests include:
Amniocentesis - A test that analyzes a sample of the amniotic fluid for neural tube defects like spina bifida.
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) - A test that analyzes a sample of cells from the placenta for genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis.
Make an Appointment with a Genetic Counselor
A genetic counselor is a healthcare professional that is trained in medical genetics in order to assess the risk that a child may be born with a chromosomal or genetic disorder. These individuals also help couples understand how genetics can affect the health of their child. Genetic counselors are also trained in counseling to help couples cope with the psychological and emotional effects of prenatal testing.
They will look at your family medical history, both of you and your partner, to assess any risk of genetic disease. They will also consider the age of the mother and the health of both parents. Throughout the testing process, genetic counselors will explain what the results of each prenatal test mean. If necessary, you will be offered additional testing with explanations about how each procedure is performed and what types of results you could receive. If you have any questions regarding prenatal testing, make an appointment with a genetic counselor.