What is prenatal genetic testing?
What are genetic disorders?
Genetic disorders are caused by changes in a person’s genes or chromosomes. Aneuploidy is a condition in which there are missing or extra chromosomes. In a trisomy, there is an extra chromosome. In a monosomy, a chromosome is missing. Inherited disorders are caused by changes in genes called mutations. Inherited disorders include sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, and many others. In most cases, both parents must carry the same gene to have an affected child.
What are the two main types of prenatal genetic tests?
Both screening and diagnostic testing are offered to all pregnant women.
What are the different types of prenatal genetic screening tests?
Prenatal genetic screening tests can tell you your risk of having a baby with certain disorders. They include carrier screening and prenatal genetic screening tests:
What is first-trimester screening?
First-trimester prenatal genetic screening includes a test of the pregnant woman’s blood and an ultrasound exam. Both tests usually are done together between 10 weeks and 13 weeks of pregnancy:
What is second-trimester screening?
Second-trimester prenatal genetic screening includes the following tests:
What is combined first- and second-trimester screening?
The results from first-and second-trimester tests can be combined in various ways. Combined test results are more accurate than a single test result. If you choose combined screening, keep in mind that final results often are not available until the second trimester.
What is cell-free DNA testing?
Cell-free DNA is the small amount of DNA that is released from the placenta into a pregnant woman’s bloodstream. The cell-free DNA in a sample of a woman’s blood can be screened for Down syndrome, Patau syndrome (trisomy 13), Edwards syndrome, and problems with the number of sex chromosomes. This test can be done starting at 10 weeks of pregnancy. It takes about 1 week to get the results. A positive cell-free DNA test result should be followed by a diagnostic test with amniocentesis or CVS.
What do the different results of prenatal genetic screening tests mean?
Results of blood screening tests for aneuploidy are reported as the level of risk that the disorder might be present:
How accurate are prenatal genetic screening tests?
With any type of testing, there is a possibility of false-positive results and false-negative results. A screening test result that shows there is a problem when one does not exist is called a false-positive result. A screening test result that shows there is not a problem when one does exist is called a false-negative result. Your health care professional can give you information about the rates of false-positive and false-negative results for each test.
What should I consider when deciding whether to have prenatal genetic testing?
It is your choice whether to have prenatal genetic screening tests. Your personal beliefs and values are important factors in the decision about prenatal testing.
It can be helpful to think about how you would use the results of prenatal screening tests in your pregnancy care. Remember that a positive screening test tells you only that you are at higher risk of having a baby with Down syndrome or another aneuploidy. A diagnostic test should be done if you want to know a more certain result. Some parents want to know beforehand that their baby will be born with a genetic disorder. This knowledge gives parents time to learn about the disorder and plan for the medical care that the child may need. Some parents may decide to end the pregnancy in certain situations.
Other parents do not want to know this information before the child is born. In this case, you may decide not to have follow-up diagnostic testing if a screening test result is positive. Or you may decide not to have any testing at all. There is no right or wrong answer.
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