You may want to get a DNA testing kit for several reasons. Maybe you're interested in learning more about your ancestry or wish to discover if you're predisposed to certain diseases. But what if you're pregnant?
As a researcher in biomedicine and biophysics, I have a deep understanding of how DNA impacts our health. In this post, I'll explain what to expect throughout the process, what types of tests are available for expectant parents, and whether they're safe to use during pregnancy.
» Stay informed. Here's how to interpret your DNA test results.
Why Should You Take a DNA Test While Pregnant?
Your DNA is identical in all your cells, so genetic tests can give reliable results from any sample. But when you're pregnant, your blood contains both your DNA and your baby's, connected through the placenta. Standard DNA tests using blood can't differentiate between you and your baby.
Keep this in mind if you're thinking about genetic sequencing while pregnant. The good news is, though, that your baby's DNA in your blood lets you do non-invasive prenatal testing, like paternity tests, from as early as the end of the first trimester.
I'd recommend DNA testing during pregnancy for several key reasons:
- Advanced maternal age: If you're over 35, DNA testing can screen for chromosomal conditions such as Down syndrome, which are more common in older moms.
- Previous pregnancy complications: If you've had miscarriages or other pregnancy complications in the past, a DNA test can help determine if genetics played a role.
- Ethnic background: Some genetic diseases are more prevalent in certain ethnic groups. For example, sickle cell disease is more common in people of African and African American descent.
5 Benefits of Taking DNA Tests While Expectant
Here are five potential benefits of taking a DNA test during pregnancy:
- Test for health issues early: DNA tests can find out if you or your partner might pass on genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy.
- Prepare siblings: If your family has a history of a hereditary condition, a DNA test can help you and your other kids prepare for a new baby who may need special care.
- Determine paternity: If you're not sure who the father is, a DNA test can establish paternity to clear that up.
- Inform medical care: If the test finds certain genetic conditions, your doctors can customize your prenatal care and prepare for possible complications.
- Peace of mind: Knowing about your baby's genetic makeup can give you peace of mind during pregnancy. Even if the test doesn't find any problems, it can be comforting to know that they're okay.
Is It Safe to Take a DNA Test if You're Pregnant?
The main thing to watch out for is emotional distress from unexpected results. This could make you feel anxious, sad, or guilty. You might also start to think you need to change your lifestyle drastically.
But remember, these tests are just a first step. If you're worried about the outcomes, talk to your doctor to understand them better and figure out what to do next.
Cheek Swab vs. Saliva Tests vs. Blood-Based Tests
For a cheek swab test, you just gently rub a Q-tip inside your cheek a few times before putting it into a test tube. It's a simple way to get DNA, and it doesn't hurt. It also usually gathers enough genetic material for analysis.
With saliva tests, you need to fill a tube with your spit. If you don't fill it enough, the test may produce inconclusive results. This is why cheek swabs are easier—they need less material and aren't as likely to be contaminated by bacteria or foreign DNA, like food.
Getting a blood test during pregnancy is safe and doesn't hurt you or the baby since they only require a small blood sample. These tests are better than older ones like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, which used needles and had risks like infection or miscarriage.
Types of At-Home DNA Testing Kits
Did you know that ethnicity affects health and illness? Ancestry tests like 23andMe, MyHeritage, and FamilyTreeDNA can give you information about your family's history. They look at your genes to figure out your ethnic background and if you're connected to different populations around the world.
Health and Wellness Tests
Health and wellness DNA testing kits focus on whether you're more likely to have certain health conditions and wellness-related traits, like metabolism, sleep patterns, or muscle composition. Knowing what your DNA says can help you optimize your fitness routine and determine your genetic limit to muscle growth.
Carrier Status Tests
Carrier status tests check if you might pass on specific genetic conditions. Usually, being a carrier doesn't change anything for the person, but it can have implications for their kids.
» Got it from your mama? Discover 10 traits that are actually hereditary.
Nutrigenomics tests examine how your genes affect your body’s response to particular nutrients and foods, helping tailor dietary recommendations. Understanding your genetic predispositions can help you choose the right foods to eat during pregnancy.
Pharmacogenomics testing focuses on how your genetic makeup affects the way you react to medications. Knowing how your body responds to different drugs can help doctors pick the safest ones for you when you're pregnant. You could use a service like LetsGetChecked for this.
Genetic Screening Kits at Home
You can do genetic tests at home easily with kits that use spit or a cheek swab. These tests don't provide information about the fetus but can be valuable for family planning—especially if there are diseases that run in your family. You can try kits like Futura Genetics or Bio-Gene DNA Testing.
Prenatal DNA Tests
Prenatal Paternity Test
You can determine paternity as early as the seventh week of pregnancy. It just requires a blood sample from the mom and a cheek swab from the possible dad. Then, a laboratory technician analyzes the results to find out who the father is.
Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT)
After 10 weeks of pregnancy, a quick blood exam from the mother can give you genetic information about the developing baby. This non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) can screen for chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome. It can also confirm the baby's gender.
Regulation and Certifications for DNA Testing Kits
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates clinical testing but does not approve most commercially available genetic tests. However, some companies, like 23&Me, have gotten FDA approval to screen for certain genetic conditions.
For other trusted tests, look for clinics that have a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certificate, an ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for laboratory quality standards, or FDA approval.
If a test doesn't have these credentials, you should carefully evaluate whether it's a good option to use.
Embracing Prenatal DNA Testing
If you're pregnant, you should consider how DNA testing can help you. You can use advanced procedures or simple at-home paternity testing kits to learn about your genes and your baby's. This can be really important for taking good care of yourself and getting ready for your little one.
It can also make you feel more relaxed and teach you about potential health risks or genetic conditions you may need to know about. Using these tests can truly change your experience while you're expecting.