The Complete Guide to DNA Testing During Pregnancy

Top10.com StaffByTop10.com StaffJul. 04, 2019
The Complete Guide to DNA Testing During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a glorious time, full of anticipation, hope, and excitement at the prospect of welcoming your little bundle into the world. However, pregnancy can also be a time of worry and anxiety, especially if there are certain things weighing on your heart.

For example, women who aren’t sure who the father of the baby is, who are hoping for a certain sex, or who have reason to suspect that their fetus might have health problems, can feel downright stressed during pregnancy. And that’s not good for mommy or baby.

Fortunately, we live in an age where you don’t have to live with these anxieties for a full 9 months. Today, DNA tests during pregnancy can help you find the answers you’re seeking, and what’s more, they’re completely risk-free to you and your baby.

There are 3 main types of DNA testing you can do during pregnancy:

  • Paternity test
  • Baby gender test
  • Prenatal screening tests

All of these tests are based on fairly recent medical innovations that require only a simple blood draw. This type of testing is called Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), and it works by analyzing cell-free fetal DNA that’s found in the mother’s blood. 

Before NIPT was available, women had 2 choices if they wanted to confirm paternity and sex of the baby, or screen for diseases:

  • CVS (Chorionic Villi Sampling) and amniocentesis, both of which involve a big needle and come with a risk of miscarriage. Because the procedures are risky, they were—and are—only recommended if absolutely necessary. 
  • Wait until the baby is born

NIPT revolutionized prenatal science and there’s no risk to your fetus and no risk to your health, which is an incredible stride for women. 

If you’re considering doing a prenatal DNA test for paterity, fetal sex reveal, or to screen for health conditions, here is everything you need to know. 

Paternity Testing

If you’re unsure who the father of your baby is, you no longer have to wait until the baby is born to do a paternity test. And that’s really good news, because being uncertain can make you stressed and anxious, which you definitely want to avoid during pregnancy. Plus, a prenatal paternity test is easy to do—there are lots of DNA testing companies that provide paternity test kits that you can do when your fetus is as young as 10 weeks. 

How do prenatal paternity tests work?

The test kit that you receive from a DNA testing company involves an NIPT—which means that you’ll need to get blood drawn by a medical professional and the potential father will have to do a cheek swab. You’ll then send both samples back to a lab, where they will be analyzed to see if they’re a match for paternity. 

Are prenatal paternity tests accurate?

These tests are 99.9% accurate when done correctly. Since you’ll need to get your blood taken by a professional, the chances of that getting messed up are low. Rather, make sure that the potential father swabs his cheek properly and then stores the swab correctly. 

Additionally, not all NIPTs are created equal, and since the industry isn’t well-regulated, you may encounter companies that promise 99.9% accuracy when, in fact, that’s not the case. 

When choosing a DNA testing company for paternity testing, here are some things to look out for so that you don’t get duped:

Low prices - Prenatal paternity tests are expensive (usually $1,200 or more), so if a company is offering a price that’s strangely low, beware.

  • Early testing - If a company allows you to take the test before the fetus has reached 8 weeks (according to your last menstrual cycle), chances are that the test will not be accurate. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the fetus must be at least 8 weeks to achieve accurate results. 
  • Do-it-yourself blood test - If a company allows you to take your own blood via a finger-pricking device, run the other way! Blood from a cardboard marker isn’t the same quality as blood drawn by a medical professional and stored in a vial.
  • Discreet samples - You may not want to ask the potential father for a cheek swab, and that’s understandable. In this case, you may be tempted to look for a DNA testing company that offers “discreet” testing, which means that you can send in hair, fingernail clippings, and more instead of a cheek swab. However, companies that offer discreet sample testing still require consent from the potential father - because DNA testing without consent isn’t legal. If a company does not require legal consent, be careful - you could end up with legal troubles. 
  • Web security - Is the company’s website HTTPS secured? If not, you don’t want to have anything to do with them.

Take a look at EasyDNA—you’ll note that the website states that the test can’t be performed before the fetus is 8 weeks. It also says that your blood sample must be taken by a medical professional. The cost of the NIPT is about $1,300 and the website is HTTPS encrypted. These are the signs of a reliable, trustworthy NIPT provider.

Baby Gender Test

If you’re anxious to find out whether you’re having a boy or a girl, a baby gender test (also known as fetal sex test) is an easy way to find out. Baby gender tests can be conducted as early as 7 weeks from your last menstrual period, but accuracy is improved if you wait until at least 10 weeks. Like prenatal paternity tests, DNA testing to find out the gender will require an NIPT, so you’ll need to do a blood test. Also like prenatal paternity testing, baby gender testing can be done through DNA testing kit delivery services. 

Tests typically costs about $200 and you get results in up to 2 weeks. 

How accurate are baby gender tests?

When taken between 7-20 weeks, these tests are 95%-98% accurate. Of course, there’s no need to take this test if you’re able to find out your baby’s sex at your 14-week ultrasound. On the flip side, if you take a baby gender test, that doesn’t give you the green light to skip an ultrasound! Ultrasounds not only reveal the gender of your baby, but they can show you many other important things as well. 

Remember the criteria for a solid testing company, because that can also impact the accuracy of your gender tests results. Choose DNA companies that require full blood tests as opposed to a finger-prick and make sure that the site is HTTPS secured. 

Prenatal Screening Tests

No one wants to even think that something could be wrong with their baby. However, if there’s a slight chance that there is an issue, you have the option to screen for certain health conditions. 

Prenatal screening tests typically check for:

  • Down Syndrome (trisomy 21)
  • Edwards Syndrome (trisomy 18)
  • Patau’s Syndrome (trisomy 13)

Bear in mind that screening for these syndromes simply means that you can find out if your baby has them—it’s not treatment, nor does treatment exist at this point. Many women, however, choose to do the tests so they can be informed and prepare themselves mentally and emotionally if the results are positive.

How accurate is prenatal health screening?

Tests are typically performed between 14-18 weeks of your pregnancy but can be taken as early as 10 weeks. This is another NIPT, though here you won’t be looking for paternity or gender. And while NIPTs are very accurate, they’re not 100% accurate, which means that there is a possibility that you can take the test and receive a false positive—and this is important, because pregnancies can sometimes be terminated if the test results are positive for Down Syndrome or something else. 

So while prenatal screening is important, bear in mind that the most accurate methods for checking for Down and other syndromes are diagnostic measures: CVS and amniocentesis. However, DNA screening can be a good precursor to those 2—for example, if the results come back negative, you know you don’t have to undergo an invasive procedure. However, if the results come back positive, it’s best to consult with your doctor about your next move. 

Is DNA Testing During Pregnancy Harmful or Helpful?

Most women choose to do DNA testing during pregnancy because they want to alleviate certain anxieties: Who’s the father, what’s the sex, and will the baby be born with any syndromes? In many cases, the alleviation of stress is worth the DNA test—especially because NIPTs from DNA testing companies are so easy to do. 

However, if you think that finding the answers to your questions will end up making you more stressed, it might be better to wait until after your baby is born. You know yourself best, which means that only you can make the decision. However, keep in mind that should you choose to do an NIPT during pregnancy, you can rest assured that there are no physical risks to you or your baby. 

FAQs About DNA Testing During Pregnancy

When can you do a DNA test on an unborn baby?

Most DNA testing can be done on an unborn baby at the age of 8 weeks (counting from the start of your last menstrual cycle). To get the most accurate results, it’s best to wait until the baby is 10 weeks. Beware of any DNA testing companies that offer tests before 8 weeks—the results will not likely be accurate. 

How can you tell who the father is during pregnancy?

To find out who the father of your baby is during pregnancy, you can do Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing. All this involves is a blood draw taken from you and a cheek swab from the potential father. The easiest way to do this is to order a DNA testing kit from a reputable company. After you take the samples, you send them back to the company, which then sends them to a lab for analysis. NIPTs are a safe, risk-free way to find out who the father of your baby is during pregnancy.  

Can you tell the race of a baby before birth?

No, you cannot tell the race of a baby before birth. In April 2019,  the American Association of Physical Anthropologists released a statement clarifying that race is not actually a biological definition; it is a social and political term. So while DNA testing can be used to uncover ancestry, genetic makeup, and phenotype, there’s no specific gene that determines a person’s race. 

Do hospitals do paternity tests?

Hospitals can do paternity tests, but why put yourself through that hassle? If your child is born, all you need to do is get a cheek swab of him/her and the potential father. You can do this from home; there is absolutely no reason to go to a hospital. 

If you want to do a prenatal paternity check, you can do a Non-Invasive Prenatal Test, which involves a blood draw from the mother and a cheek swab for the father. Again, you can do the blood draw at a hospital, but going to a doctor or local clinic is much easier. The only time you may need to go to a hospital is if you need CVS or amniocentesis, which are riskier procedures—but these are typically used for other screenings, not paternity tests, and even they can be performed in outpatient clinics. 

Where can I get a DNA test done while pregnant?

If you’re pregnant, the easiest way to do a DNA test is to order a paternity test kit delivered to your home. You’ll then need to do a simple blood draw at any medical center and the potential father can do a cheek swab at home. Send the samples back to the testing company in the provided packaging, and they will be forwarded to a lab for comparison. There are 2 main things to be careful about: Making sure that the DNA samples are taken correctly, and choosing a DNA testing company that you trust.

Top10.com StaffByTop10.com StaffJun. 18, 2019
Our editorial staff is comprised of writers who are passionate about the world of genetic testing. We specialize in simplifying the process of choosing the right DNA testing kit for your needs.