Best DNA Tests For Babies

Updated January 17, 2019

This article was scientifically reviewed by YourDNA

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What Are The Best DNA Tests For Babies?

Do you have health or paternity questions about your unborn baby or a recently born child?

In some cases, DNA testing may be able to give you more information. If you’re unsure of how DNA testing could benefit your baby and family, or if you’re wondering why DNA testing is something to consider for your child, keep reading.

What's in this Guide?

Disclaimer: Before You Read

It is important to know that your genes are not your destiny. There are various environmental and genetic factors working together to shape you. No matter your genetic makeup, maintain ideal blood pressure and glucose levels, avoid harmful alcohol intake, exercise regularly, get regular sleep. And for goodness sake, don't smoke.

Genetics is a quickly changing topic.

What Is A DNA Test?

You may have been hearing a lot lately about DNA testing, and how it’s easier now than ever before to have a DNA test performed.

But what is a DNA test, and why should you consider having one done for your baby? Let’s start with understanding what these kinds of test can tell you, and how they work.

DNA tests are a kind of medical test that use your genetic code — the tiny molecules that make you who you are — to determine different kinds of information. What many people understand about DNA often comes from TV forensic science shows and court cases, but you should know that DNA tests aren’t solely used when it comes to finding out who committed a crime.

In fact, some of the most popular uses for DNA tests are to determine the paternity of a child or to find out more about a potential health condition that you or your child may carry.

DNA tests work by first collecting a sample. Because DNA is an essential part of the human body, know that everyone has DNA.

Scientists can collect a DNA sample from your saliva, fingernail clippings, hair, and most commonly, blood. After collecting a sample through one of these items, your DNA is then sent off to a laboratory where lab technicians are able to sequence — or process and observe — your DNA. How is that possible? Well first, the DNA sample is processed and digitized in a way that genetic scientists use to evaluate your personal DNA.

Lab workers input your DNA data into a computer that then uses algorithms that show your DNA as a randomly repeating string of four letters — C, G, A and T. These letters, called nucleobases, are representatives of the DNA molecules that impact everything about you, from what color your hair is, to how tall you are, to what kind of health conditions you may be at risk for.

By observing the patterns of nucleobases, scientists are able to pick out factors about your baby, such as potential health conditions. And by comparing your baby’s DNA to that of another person, they can also determine paternity or family relation, which can be helpful in custody, family court, or adoption situations.

What Types of DNA Tests Are There For Babies?

There are several kinds of DNA tests on the market, but you may be wondering which is best for your baby.

That answer — as with any DNA test — generally depends on what kind of information you’re looking for. Here are the most common kinds of DNA tests available, and how they may be beneficial for your baby and family:

DNA testing for cancer and health conditions: One of the most popular uses of DNA testing for babies and young children is related to health concerns. Advances in DNA testing allow medical professionals to have a better shot at diagnosing health conditions in people of all ages.

Because DNA tests can observe your baby’s chromosomes — the structures in DNA that carry genetic information such as gender, personal features, and risk factor for certain diseases — to identify a wide variety of health conditions and risks. DNA testing for health conditions is increasingly helpful when one parent may be a carrier of a certain inherited genetic condition, such as cystic fibrosis.

And, for families that have heightened risks of conditions such as cancer — also called a cancer cluster, where many people in one family have experienced the same kind of cancer — DNA testing for your baby can inform you of their risk. Knowing early on whether or not your baby may any inherited health condition can help you plan ahead for their birth, as well as make future health care decisions.

DNA testing for paternity: Another popular use for DNA testing with babies is for paternity. DNA paternity testing is highly accurate; in fact, a test performed by a reliable professional laboratory may be as high as 99.9 percent accurate.

DNA testing for paternity has become such a reliable science that genetics laboratories can even accurately determine the father in situations where two related men may be a child’s father.

DNA testing for family history: As crazy as it may sound, some people want to submit ancestry DNA kits — those that can help you learn more about your family’s history — for their children. While it is technically possible to purchase one of these DNA kits, such as one from AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, or 23andMe, you should know that these kits aren’t marketed towards babies and children, and actually can be inconclusive.

That’s because of the difficulty in collecting saliva from babies and small children. Plus, genetic scientists have suggested that drool and saliva collected from infants and young children often doesn’t contain enough DNA for a high-quality sample.

If you’re interested in a DNA test for your baby that helps answer family tree questions, you’re better off using a test kit for an older family member, such as you or your spouse.

What Are The Best DNA Tests For Babies?

When it comes to determining which of these tests are best for your baby, you’ll want to think about what information you need to know.

If you’re concerned about health risks and inherited diseases, you’ll need to speak with your doctor about having a medical DNA test performed. And, no matter how enticing it may be to purchase a DNA test kit online that identifies health risks — such as 23andMe’s Genetic Health Risks test — remember that at-home DNA test kits rely on a saliva sample, and infant saliva won’t provide a high-quality DNA sample (effectively wasting your money).

If you’re questioning paternity, there’s no need to have a full DNA test done for health conditions — instead, you’ll want to save money and get only the results you need through a simple paternity test.

What Can You Find Out From DNA Testing Your Baby?

There’s a lot you can find out about your baby through DNA testing.

One of the most common uses for DNA testing on infants and children is paternity, and DNA can help accurately determine the father of a child.

Whether a DNA test is performed before or after birth, DNA tests for infants are often focused on health. Another popular use of DNA testing is health related, especially in situations where an underlying or unknown health condition may be causing symptoms.

Some of the conditions a DNA test performed on your baby can identify include:

  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Down syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Tay-Sachs disease
  • Spinal muscular atrophy
  • Trisomy 13 and 18
  • Spina bifida

How Soon After A Baby Is Born Can You Get A DNA Test?

DNA testing can be done at any time after your child’s birth.

In fact, if you’re interested in having a DNA sample collected before your baby leaves the hospital, it’s definitely possible. Depending on the services that your hospital’s laboratory provides, it can even be possible to have the results of the DNA test returned to you before you and your baby check out of the hospital.

In some cases, DNA collection may be delayed by 24 hours after birth to get the best sample, though your health provider will have the most up-to-date and accurate information on when to collect a DNA sample from your baby.

If you’re considering having an in-hospital DNA test performed, know that you’ll likely pay for the cost of this test, along with the laboratory processing fees, out of pocket. That’s because unless a medical provider specifically requests a DNA test, most insurance companies will consider the test non-medically necessary and reject coverage.

Hospital DNA tests can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the information you’re seeking, if the hospital can do the test or if the bloodwork is sent out to another hospital or laboratory, and other factors.

But what about genetic testing that’s done before your baby leaves the hospital? In most states, genetic tests to identify common health ailments are legally required before your baby is sent home. These genetic tests screen for health conditions such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, critical congenital heart disease, and many other conditions.

This testing is done shortly after birth and uses several drops of blood collected from pricking your infant's heel.

What Are The Best Paternity DNA Tests?

If you’re trying to identify the best paternity test, you’ll first need to consider why you need the test.

Paternity DNA tests can be broken into two categories: professional lab DNA tests and at-home DNA test kits.

Professional DNA testing: If you’re in a situation where you’re unsure of who the baby’s father is and may need legal help setting up custody or child support, a professional DNA test is best. In most cases, a court of law will not accept DNA test results from an at-home DNA test kit and instead will require you to pay for a professional test with court-admissible results.

If you’re concerned at all about needing to use DNA results for legal reasons, you’ll want to have the test administered and processed by a medical professional, such a health clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital lab.

At-home DNA test kits: You can purchase a DNA test kit from a drug store or online for a low price, though you should know that using this kind of paternity testing requires you to also pay upwards of $100 for lab processing and results. These tests can be helpful at confirming paternity in situations where you may not need to go to court over a custody or child support dispute.

Can You Do A DNA Test Before The Baby Is Born?

It is possible to have a DNA test performed prior to the birth of your baby, but it is more difficult, and some methods of extracting DNA for a test present some risk to both a pregnant mother and unborn baby.

There are several ways to have a DNA sample collected and tested before your baby is born:

Chorionic Villus Sampling: This test is done between weeks 10 and 12 of pregnancy, and uses a needle inserted through a woman’s cervix to collect a sample of chorionic villi. These tiny tissues found along the walls of the uterus contain a baby’s DNA, which can be used for testing.

Amniocentesis: This form of DNA collection uses a needle that is inserted through a woman’s abdomen to collect a sample of amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb. After collecting the fluid, it is sent off for genetic testing that can inform parents about potential health conditions.

Non-invasive testing through blood or DNA: Newer, non-invasive forms of DNA testing can utilize the mother’s saliva or blood to perform a DNA test on an unborn baby. In some cases, a cheek swab can also be used; after collection, the DNA is sent off to a lab where the mother and baby’s DNA are separated before the baby’s DNA is analyzed.

You should also know that DNA testing that’s done before your baby is born is also more costly. That’s because it’s more difficult to collect DNA through the womb, and because there’s more work involved for a processing laboratory.

In fact, for DNA testing performed pre-birth, genetic technicians and scientists have to use a few additional steps to separate the baby’s DNA from the mother’s.

How Accurate Are DNA Tests For Babies?

If you’re wondering just how accurate DNA tests are for babies — or anyone for that matter — you should know that they’re highly accurate.

In fact, DNA tests that are performed and analyzed by a licensed and professional DNA laboratory are so accurate that the results are often used in courts of law to help with proving paternity, establishing child support payments, and creating a case for visitation rights in child custody disputes.

It’s very rare that a DNA test that proves paternity or provides information about a potential health issue, comes back with inaccurate results. In most cases, DNA tests for babies that come back with confusing results are due to a low-quality sample.

This can happen with at-home DNA test kits, which often rely on saliva or hair. Because collecting DNA at home (in comparison to having you or your child’s DNA collected at a lab, clinic, or doctor’s office) may not be done properly, it’s possible to get a low-quality sample. This can happen if you don’t follow the instructions for taking the DNA test — such as drinking water right before collecting a saliva sample.

Still, though, it’s possible for geneticists to extract your DNA from a tiny sample of saliva or body hair, so even if you don’t follow the directions exactly, the chances of your baby’s DNA test coming back with inconclusive results are relatively low.

With all of this said, though, you may still be wondering about the how spot on DNA tests for babies considering that tests such as DNA paternity tests offer statistics of 95 to 99.9 percent accuracy. You should know that this level of accuracy is exceptionally high, but like most scientific findings, it’s nearly impossible to say with 100 percent certainty that the results are accurate.

Know that if you’re considering a DNA test, having an accuracy percentage in the upper 90s is the best you’ll get. And, the results from DNA tests with this level of correctness can be trusted.

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