Women, especially older mothers or those with a family history of genetic conditions, are routinely offered a variety of prenatal genetic testing in the first trimester of pregnancy. These tests help calculate the odds of a baby being born with genetic disorders. These tests inform the parents about the future needs of their child.
A doctor will offer prenatal screening usually between the 10th and 13th week of pregnancy. This particular test doesn’t test for genetic material but looks for substances that suggest higher risks. These tests involve taking samples of the mother’s blood as well as obtaining an ultrasound. The choice to undergo genetic screening is completely up to the mother, though the testing is fairly routine, and most women, regardless of age or history, under this screening. Other, more in-depth forms of genetic testing include sampling amniotic fluid. Though more invasive, these tests have a greater accuracy and reliability.
Prenatal genetic screening can detect chromosomal abnormalities. Testing, along with other risk factors such as the woman’s age, the parents’ health history, and the baby’s genetic background, can give an accurate prediction of whether the baby might have genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, or more minor conditions like Klinefelter syndrome.
Prenatal genetic screening can put a mother’s mind at ease – one way or the other – and help parents prepare for any extenuating healthcare decisions they may need to make. It can also, however, place pressure on the parents to make important healthcare decisions before the baby is even born.
When parents are informed about a possible chromosomal abnormality, they have to deal with genetic counseling, further prenatal diagnostic tests, and other considerations that go along with a special needs baby. The severity of the condition can be predicted with more in-depth genetic testing, but the full extent of the genetic disorder may not be realized until after birth.
Some women turn down prenatal genetic screening, since they cannot do anything to change the baby’s genetic makeup. Others feel more comfortable when they understand the path ahead. To weigh the pros and cons of prenatal genetic screening in your own situation, ask yourself how a positive screening test result would affect you. If the results would cause you more anxiety than peace of mind, you may want to opt out of it.