The hustle and bustle of pregnancy almost always come with some worry about whether or not your baby is as healthy as it can be while in your womb. For many, the thought of not knowing can be all-consuming.
In reality, your baby has a great chance of being healthy. Only about 3% of babies are born with a congenital disability, and while that number can still be frightening to some, if you look at the number of babies born every day (over 10,000!), it’s quite a small percentage. However, it is still understandable for a mother to be concerned. Fortunately, we live in a world where prenatal screening is easily accessible.
What is Prenatal Testing?
There are two types of prenatal testing: non-invasive prenatal screening and prenatal diagnostic testing. Non-invasive prenatal screenings determine if your baby may be at a higher risk for certain congenital disabilities due to genetic anomalies. Conversely, prenatal diagnostic testing is done after the prenatal screening is completed, when the screening results have shown that there may be issues.
Prenatal screening is done in several ways and completely at the parents’ discretion. Your doctor may recommend prenatal screening if you have a history of certain disorders, but the pros and cons of each type of screen should be weighed before you make a choice. Since prenatal screening does not definitively determine an issue, it only suggests the chance of one, understanding that – as well as the risks involved – is important.
Who Should Get These Tests?
While every woman can get prenatal testing done during their pregnancy, some risk factors may determine whether you feel this is a necessary step for you and your family. If a family history of genetic disorders is present or if you are a woman over 35, prenatal screening may be recommended.
The first step is to talk to your OB/GYN and fully understand your risk factors. It is possible for prenatal screening to present false positives. Knowing that a positive in a prenatal screening test does not automatically mean your baby will have chromosomal issues is also important. One parent can often carry a chromosome for a genetic disorder, but the other parent does not, almost negating the risk that the baby will have the disease.
What Do These Tests Screen For?
Genetic abnormalities cause many congenital disabilities. There are non-invasive prenatal screening procedures that can determine if your baby may be more likely to have these abnormalities based on their genetic makeup. Some examples of chromosomal abnormalities that can be discovered during prenatal screening include:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Down syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Sickle cell anemia
- Hemophilia A
Talking to your family about its medical history is important, as it can help you determine if there is a genetic link to disease in your lineage. Many people are carriers of these types of chromosomes without knowing it. Many people are carriers of these types of chromosomes without knowing it. If you do encounter such a risk, then these screening assays can give you the answers to many of your questions about the well-being of your baby.
Know the Risks and Possible Outcomes
Many prenatal screenings, such as ultrasounds and blood tests, are completely non-invasive and safe and have no potential to harm your baby. However, more involved prenatal diagnostic testing may include more invasive procedures, such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, potentially affecting your baby or pregnancy.
Prenatal testing is not for everyone, but if you believe it may be for you, it’s a good idea to talk to your OB/GYN about your risk factors and weigh everything involved before making a decision. The most important thing is keeping yourself healthy and happy – and with the least stress before your precious bundle of joy finally bursts into the world.