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10 Ways to Deal With Unexpected DNA Test Results

Margaret Etudo
Young man receiving bad news on his phone
As technology advances, at-home DNA tests are becoming more and more common. These tests make it easy and fun to learn about your family history, but some results may take you by surprise.

DNA testing is a no-brainer approach to understanding your ancestry and discovering hidden family secrets. It can also detect genetic diseases and predispositions, which may be helpful later.

But, depending on how much you know about your family history, these tests can uncover things about your relatives that you may not want to know. They can also reveal that someone isn't related to you as expected or confirm your suspicions about your parentage.

Getting results you didn't expect can leave you distressed, confused, or even scared. This might lead you to question the accuracy of your test results, especially if it was an at-home DNA test.

» Want to learn more about your genealogy? Check out our top picks for the best DNA testing kits.

Can DNA Test Results Be Wrong?

According to a recent study, 1 in 1,700 DNA tests can be inaccurate. False negatives occur in DNA genetic testing when the sample collected does not have enough genetic material.

And with at-home paternity tests, for example, a DNA test result can give a false positive due to contamination of the collected samples. It's believed that as much as 30% of positive paternity claims in the United States are wrong.

If you receive unexpected or incorrect DNA test results, it's best to consult a medical professional. This will help you better understand your results and their implications for you and your family.

Here are 10 ways to deal with unexpected DNA test results.

1. Stay Calm

If you receive unexpected results from a DNA test, it's important to stay calm and not jump to conclusions.

Unexpected DNA results don't necessarily mean that something is wrong. There are several reasons why your results may differ from what you were expecting. It is important to consider all the possibilities before making any decisions.

Remember that DNA tests are not always 100% accurate. There is always a chance that your results may be incorrect.

Speak to a genetic counselor or medical professional to help you interpret your results and ensure that they're accurate.

2. Document Your Experience

After getting your results, use a notebook to document your experience.

Write down who you spoke with at the testing company, what the results said, and your reaction to the news. You can also reach out to a genetic counselor or doctor for guidance on interpreting and dealing with the results.

This will help you understand your DNA results and keep track of everything that's happening.

It can also serve as a source of reference later. You may want to share this information with other family members who have taken a DNA test or are thinking about doing it.

3. Talk to a Counselor or Therapist

If you receive unexpected results from a DNA test, it is important to talk to a counselor or therapist who can help you process the information. This is especially true if the unexpected results are related to your family history or identity.

Many times, people who receive unexpected results feel shocked and alone.

A counselor or therapist can help you better understand the implications of the results and how they may impact your sense of self.

Talking to a counselor or therapist can also help you devise a plan to tell your family about your results or how to deal with the situation appropriately.

» Get the support you need with the best online therapy services.

4. Revisit Your DNA Test Goals and Values

It's important to revisit your initial goals and values. This will remind you why you decided to take the DNA test in the first place.

What were you hoping to gain from it? You might have expected to find famous relatives, or you might be looking to discover possible hereditary conditions in your family line.

Whatever the case, remembering your values and goals will help you make careful and deliberate choices as you learn more about your genealogy.

5. Update Your Medical Records

You should update your medical records if you receive unexpected DNA test results. This way, your doctor will have the most accurate information about your health and can provide you with the best care possible.

You'll need to give your doctor a copy of your DNA test results to update your medical records. You can get a copy from the company that conducted the test.

Once you have a copy of your results, schedule an appointment with your doctor so they can review the results with you and make any necessary changes to your medical records.

6. Consider What These Results Mean for You

When you get your DNA test results back, you need to remember that who you are and what your results say about you are two different things.

If you face unexpected results, take the time to consider whatever is most important to you.

You might want to know more about your ancestry and where you come from. In contrast, some people might like to be informed of any possible health risks. And for others, it might be more important to understand themselves and their family better.

Make sure you stay focused on what's most important to you. Talk to your family and friends about it if you need to.

But in the end, only you can decide what your DNA test results mean for you and your life.

7. Verify Your Test Results

If you received unexpected results from a DNA test, you need to take a second test to verify the results of your first test.

There are many DNA tests available, so choose one that suits your specific situation. For example, if you'd like to determine biological relationships, a sibling DNA test might be what you need.

But before ordering another DNA test, it is important to talk to a genetic counselor or medical professional. They can help you to choose the right DNA test.

» You need to read this before taking an at-home DNA test.

8. Take Care of Your Physical Health

If you're feeling overwhelmed by your DNA test results, your body may release adrenaline, which can affect you in different ways. Adrenaline can make you feel stressed, anxious, and even depressed.

Your physical health is just as important as your mental and emotional health.

It's best to take a step back and focus on caring for yourself—especially for managing stress and anxiety. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy meals, and exercise regularly.

9. Use This as a Learning Opportunity

Unexpected results can be upsetting.

But it's important to remember that DNA tests are just one tool for understanding your ancestry. Use these results as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your family.

10. Join a Support Group

If you struggle to come to terms with your unexpected DNA test results, you may find it helpful to join a support group in your area. Talking to others with similar results on online forums and in support groups can help you deal with your results.

If you don't know where to start, try searching online for a "DNA test results support group" or asking your doctor for recommendations. Many groups are open to anyone, regardless of their DNA test results.

However, some may require a referral from a doctor or genetic counselor.

Prepare for the Unexpected

DNA tests can be a great way to learn more about your ancestry and family history. But they can also lead to unwanted truths.

When you take DNA tests, there is always the possibility that you may get unexpected results back. Still, it's important to remember that DNA can help you discover more about yourself and your family—even if it's not what you expected.

» Let MyHeritage DNA or AncestryDNA help you unravel your family tree.

Margaret Etudo
Margaret Etudo is a medical writer specializing in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and various medical fields, with a Bachelor of Pharmacy Degree in progress at the University of Lagos. Her experience includes crafting articles for top10.com, WebMD, and Medical News Today, where she exhibits her ability to simplify complex topics in areas like respiratory, mental, and sexual health. Margaret makes it her mission to break down complex medical information for the everyday reader.