Prenatal Testing

Benefits of prenatal genetic testing

Prenatal testing is common in pregnancies, though not all tests are necessary for all moms-to-be. Doctors will recommend which tests are necessary based on your personal history (and that of the father's), the progression of your pregnancy and any warning signs, concerns or issues that might arise. While prenatal testing can seem scary, understanding a little more about the reasons behind it and the procedures themselves can help remove any fear.

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Benefits of Prenatal Testing

Prenatal testing is a critical part of both monitoring the health of a baby during a normal pregnancy and identifying any potential risks or concerns as early as possible. Specific benefits of prenatal testing include:

  • Identifying paternity. If you're not sure who the father of your baby is, prenatal DNA testing (also known as prenatal paternity testing) can determine the paternity issue with certainty.
  • Spotting genetic health issues. Prenatal genetic testing allows for screening for birth defects or other conditions. While not all prenatal genetic tests can conclude with certainty whether a genetic condition will be present, they can often determine whether a fetus is at high or low risk.
  • Discovering abnormalities. Developmental abnormalities such as limb disfigurement, heart defects or conditions such as Down syndrome can all be discovered with prenatal testing, and in some cases, treatment procedures can be started or planned for in advance.
  • Monitoring the health of the baby. Keeping track of a baby's development is part of ensuring a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Milestones and benchmarks like growth, age, size, heart rate and more can all be measured with prenatal testing.

Types of Prenatal Testing Procedures

Anytime you visit your doctor while pregnant, prenatal testing of blood pressure and heart rate will generally be conducted. More advanced prenatal testing includes:

  • Ultrasound. Ultrasound prenatal tests allow the doctor to take a picture of your developing baby and get information on its development. It can also be used to diagnose conditions in the mother, such as oligohydramnios, a condition in which the mother has low amniotic fluid levels.
  • Amniocentesis. Amniocentesis is a method used to draw a sample of amniotic fluid from the mother, which can then be tested to check for fetal infections or chromosomal abnormalities. In some cases, it can also be used to treat polyhydramnios, which is a condition in which excess amniotic fluid builds up in the amniotic sac.
  • Prenatal blood test. Prenatal blood testing can help detect a number of serious conditions that a mother may be suffering from that can harm her baby. These include the Rh factor (both the mother's blood and the father's are tested to view the impact on the fetus), Group B strep (which is not serious in adults but is much more risky for a developing or newborn baby), and many others.