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Is Prenatal Genetic Testing Right for You?

April 24th, 2017 | By: Sydney Loney
How to tell if your baby is at risk for birth defects and what tests you can take to find out for sure

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Is Prenatal Genetic Testing Right for You?

About two to three percent of babies have some type of major birth defect, the most common is Down syndrome. Genetic screening and diagnostic tests can help you find out if your baby is at risk. Here’s what you need to know:

Genetic screening tests vs. diagnostic tests

There are two types of prenatal testing used to detect potential fetal abnormalities: screening and diagnostic. “Screening tests do not indicate that disease is either present or absent, but tell us whether the chance of disease is higher or lower than otherwise expected for an individual patient,” says Dr. Alain Gagnon, a perinatologist at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. “The purpose is to assist a pregnant woman in deciding whether or not to have more invasive, and thus risky, diagnostic testing.”

The testing you choose depends on a couple of factors, including how soon you want the results and how much risk you’re willing to take. “Tests that are done later are more precise and some women prefer the precision, but others just want the information as soon as possible,” says Dr. Gagnon. “You need to decide what kind of information you want to receive, what you’re going to do when you get it, and what risks you’re willing to take to get that information.”

The key is to talk to your doctor, ask questions and get as much information as you need. You might choose not to have any tests at all, or to have a screening test, but not a diagnostic test. Here’s some more information on the prenatal genetic tests that are available to you: