Prenatal obstetric care helps you have a safe pregnancy, and genetic testing is an important component of prenatal care. Genetic testing allows you to know about the risks of passing down an inheritable genetic disorder like sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis to your children, and it also informs you if your developing baby develops a non-inheritable genetic disorder like Down syndrome.
Screening for genetic disorders makes you more aware of how your baby is developing and lets you make preparations for future care if they have a genetic disorder. To learn about the common types of genetic screening used in prenatal care, read on.
Parental Carrier Testing
Parental carrier testing uses a sample of your blood to determine if you and your partner are carriers of an inheritable genetic disorder like cystic fibrosis. Many inheritable genetic disorders are caused by recessive genes, and you and your partner may carry these genes without knowing it. Parental testing can be performed before you even begin trying to conceive, and it lets you know the potential risk that you may pass on a genetic disorder to your baby.
Fetal Genetic Screening
When you're pregnant, you can use fetal genetic screening to see if your baby has any genetic disorders. Fetal genetic screening uses a sample of your blood to check for genetic disorders since your blood will contain cells from your baby that can be tested.
Fetal genetic screening is non-invasive aside from requiring your blood to be drawn, making it very safe. By checking your baby's cells, a test can determine if they're likely to have any genetic disorders.
However, fetal genetic screening can't be used to make a formal diagnosis since the tests are not specific enough for the genetic disorders that are being screened for. If you have a positive result from a fetal genetic screening test, you'll need to undergo diagnostic testing in order to be certain that your baby has a genetic disorder.
The two forms of diagnostic testing that are available for genetic disorders are amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling. Amniocentesis tests a small amount of the amniotic fluid inside your uterus and chorionic villus sampling tests tissue from your placenta. Both samples are taken using a tiny needle that's inserted into your uterus through your abdomen.
Since diagnostic testing requires using a needle to draw up a sample from your uterus, it's an invasive test that carries some risk. There's a small chance that you may have a miscarriage because of the testing. However, the risk is very low, and obtaining amniotic fluid or placental tissue allows precise genetic testing to be performed on your baby. Either form of diagnostic test will let you confirm if your baby has a genetic disorder such as Down syndrome.
If you're pregnant or are planning to have kids soon, you should consider scheduling a prenatal appointment with an obstetrician for genetic testing. Obstetric care with genetic testing allows you to become more informed about the potential risks of passing down an inheritable genetic disorder and also lets you know if your baby develops a non-inheritable disorder such as Down syndrome. You'll be better able to plan ahead for the future when you know about risks and genetic issues that arise during pregnancy.