Prenatal Testing: What Is It, and Who Needs It
Disclosure: This is a featured post.
Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful – especially if you have reason to be concerned about the baby’s health. For example, women over 35 carry increased risk of having babies with chromosome abnormalities. They are also at greater risk of miscarriage from chromosome abnormalities in the fetus, and pre-existing medical conditions. Thanks to advances in cell free DNA testing, expectant parents can now conduct prenatal testing to screen for potential chromosomal anomalies without the risk of more invasive procedures.
What is Prenatal Testing?
Prenatal testing generally falls under two categories: screening and diagnostic.
· Screening tests determine the likelihood that a fetus will have a certain condition, but they can’t make a definite diagnosis. However, what they can do is determine whether or not further screening is needed. Screening tests tend to be non-invasive and pose no threat to the mother or fetus and include, blood tests, ultrasounds, and cell free DNA tests conducted during the first and second trimester.
· Diagnostic tests confirm whether or not there is a problem. Although diagnostic tests are generally safe, some tests, have a slight risk of miscarriage. However, these tests are generally not conducted unless there is reason to believe the fetus is already at risk.
Although the non-invasive test is fairly new, some insurance companies consider them medically necessary and are covering them. They are also becoming more widely used in hospitals and clinics, with Sequenom Prenatal Testing being one of the top companies offering the cell free DNA tests.
Who Needs Prenatal Testing?
As we stated earlier, expectant mothers over age 35 are at greater risk for certain chromosomal anomalies, but they aren’t the only ones who should have prenatal testing.
Women with a family history of certain diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or advanced choroidal neovascular disease, would benefit from prenatal testing. Others who would benefit from prenatal testing include:
· Women with a negative Rh factor because if the fetus has a positive Rh it could cause a miscarriage;
· A woman who is unsure of her own, or the father’s, family medical history, such as adoptees.
· Underaged girls;
· Women who have had a previous premature birth;
· Women who are expecting twins;
· Women with pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, autoimmune disease, kidney disease, or sexually transmitted diseases.
To determine whether or not prenatal testing is necessary, a woman should consult with her physician, and might also consider talking to a genetic counselor.
A genetic counselor takes in information about your personal and family health history, as well as that of the father, to determine your genetic history. The counselor might also conduct screening tests to get a better picture.
Expectant parents can also consult with genetic counselors after they get the results of the diagnostic tests for information on how the condition would impact the baby’s life, and possible treatment options.
Questions to Ask Before Scheduling a Test
Even if your doctor or a genetic counselor suggests that you have prenatal testing, it is ultimately up to you. Before you schedule a test, here are some questions you should ask:
· What does the test measure?
· How reliable is it?
· What are the risks?
· How accurate is the test?
· Is the procedure dangerous?
· In the procedure invasive or painful?
· What are the risks versus the benefits of taking the test?
· What happens if you don’t take the test?
· How much does the test cost?
· Will insurance cover the test?
· Do you need to do anything to prepare?
· How long does it take to get results?
· What happens if the test finds something?
Your healthcare provider or the testing facility might have literature about these procedures that can answer many of these questions. However, if they don’t you should definitely speak with someone before making your decision.