Best DNA Tests for Pregnancy

Updated December 13, 2018

This article was scientifically reviewed by YourDNA

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A list of references is also included at the bottom of this article.

What DNA Tests Are Best For Pregnant Women?

Women who are expecting know that pregnancy involves many doctor’s appointments and health tests to ensure that they and their baby are healthy.

But, some women are recommended or need additional tests — such as DNA tests — for genetic screening or other purposes. These DNA tests can provide helpful information about potential health issues, paternity, gender, and more.

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 Types Of DNA Tests Are Available During Pregnancy?

There are several types of DNA tests available for pregnant women, the most common being those for genetic screening and paternity.

Still, other tests, such as DNA tests that are able to reveal an unborn baby’s sex weeks earlier in pregnancy, are available to expectant mothers.

In general, genetic testing and paternity tests are administered through three different methods — non-invasive tests, Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS), and amniocentesis. These three kinds of testing have varying levels of invasiveness, and some carry slight health and side effect risks.

Before having one of these tests performed, a doctor will explain the risks, benefits, and procedure to let you know just what will happen next.

Non-invasive testing involves collecting blood or saliva and using those bodily fluids for DNA testing. Just as the name implies, these kinds of test methods are the lowest-risk kind of DNA testing because they uses bodily fluids that are easily collected.

If you choose to use a blood or DNA test, a doctor, nurse, or laboratory technician will draw a small amount of blood, or if possible, use a cheek swab or saliva sample to collect the DNA before sending it off for testing. Non-invasive testing for genetic screening or another purpose can generally be done at any time during pregnancy.

Chorionic Villus Sampling is also utilized for pregnant women who need genetic testing or another kind of DNA test. Also known as CVS, this kind of testing is can be performed anytime after your pregnancy has reached 10 to 12 weeks 1. CVS is done at your doctor’s office by a trained medical professional, and is invasive.

For DNA to be collected with this method, it requires a needle to be inserted through your cervix (by way of your abdomen or vagina), where a doctor then will collect a sample of the chorionic villi. These smalls tissues, which are found along the walls of your uterus, have your baby’s DNA within them, which can be used for additional testing.

One of the most common methods of DNA testing for pregnant women is through an amniocentesis. This invasive form of DNA collection for genetic screening usually takes place between weeks 15 and 20 of your pregnancy (a time doctors consider to be the most safe).

This form of DNA testing is often recommended when a prenatal screening test or previous genetic screening test comes back positive for a particular health condition, or if doctors need more information about your baby’s health. During an amniocentesis, doctors will insert a needle through your abdomen to collect a sample of amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby 2. This fluid is then sent off for additional testing.

Common Reasons For DNA Test While Pregnant

There are several reasons why women and expectant parents choose to have DNA tests performed during pregnancy, with the most common being paternity testing, prenatal testing, and for sex/gender testing.

Paternity testing is likely one of the top uses for DNA testing. The cost of paternity tests can be off putting to some people, but there are reasons to having this kind of genetic testing done.

While the obvious benefit is to know who the father of your baby is, paternity testing can be important if you suspect the baby’s possible father has a health condition, or if they are a carrier for a genetic condition. Knowing paternity can help you determine the best care moving forward, as well as parenting arrangements.

Prenatal testing is the other largest use for DNA testing and genetic screening during pregnancy. This form of DNA testing can help you identify health issues for unborn child, such as Down syndrome, neural tube defects, and chromosomal issues 3

Genetic testing for these health conditions can also help you understand if you and a partner are carriers of certain conditions that are passed from parent to child. This information can help you make the best care decisions for your current pregnancy, but can also be a starting place when considering future pregnancies.

Prenatal testing isn’t necessary for every pregnant woman, but those over 35 and women with suspected inherited health conditions are often recommended patients for genetic screening.

Sex and gender testing is less common but useful among pregnant women because it can help expectant parents anticipate medical conditions in situations where family members carry a sex-linked health disorders, such as hemophilia or Klinefelter syndrome.

For couples who are just simply interested in knowing the sex of their child, but cannot wait for the 20-week ultrasound appointment, at-home sex predictor kits are available, and can offer results as early as 9 weeks of pregnancy.

These kits boast a 99 percent accuracy rate (though these accuracy claims have not been tested by government agencies) for around $100 or less, and often can provide results within 72 hours of submitting your DNA sample.

Should I Get A DNA Test While Pregnant?

There are many reasons why expectant parents choose to have DNA testing or genetic screening done, and the choice to do so is very personal.

If you’re debating on whether or not you should get a DNA test while pregnant, consider asking yourself these questions:

What information do I want to know, and can a DNA test give me answers? Before deciding that a DNA test is necessary, you should ask yourself what kind of information you are trying to find out about your unborn baby. Are you worried that they may carry a particular health condition that is passed through your family?

Are you unsure of your baby’s paternity, and feel that it is important to know who the father is prior to birth? Knowing the information you’re looking for can help you determine if getting a DNA test is the best course of action.

Am I okay with the risk that some forms of DNA testing involve? Depending on the health information you’re looking for, a certain DNA test method may be necessary. Some invasive forms of DNA collection, such as amniocentesis, do carry some risk to fetuses.

Speaking with a doctor about your particular risk and comparing this to the possible benefits is highly recommended.

Will this information allow me to make important decisions regarding my child’s health and well-being? If the results of a genetic testing could make a significant impact on your child’s health in the womb and after delivery, having a DNA test done may be an important health care option during your pregnancy. If you believe that knowing about your baby’s health before they are born can impact how you approach the rest of your pregnancy and any medical decisions, then a DNA test may be a strong tool for you to consider.

Do I feel comfortable having a DNA test done? Will genetic screening give me peace of mind? Do you feel that having a DNA test done while pregnant will cause you more anguish than comfort?

If so, and if the results of the test would not change anything about your pregnancy or child’s health — such as having a genetic health condition that can be planned for and safely addressed after birth, or by knowing the paternity of your baby — a DNA test may not seem like such a big deal to you. It is important to weigh how you feel about having the DNA test.

What DNA Tests Are Best During Pregnancy?

When it comes to determining what DNA tests are best to undergo while you are pregnant, it’s first important to consider what kind of information you need to continue on a health pregnancy.

One of the best uses of DNA testing during pregnancy may be cell-free DNA screening.

This form of genetic screening uses the small amount of DNA released from the baby’s placenta into the mother’s blood stream 4. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, cell-free DNA testing uses a blood test to detect the possibility of your baby having a variety of conditions, such as trisomy 13, trisomy 18, Down syndrome, and issues related to the sex chromosomes.

Starting around week 10 of pregnancy, cell-free DNA tests can be performed, and if necessary, a doctor can follow-up any positive test results with an amniocentesis to gather more information.

Cell-free DNA is considered a good option for pregnant women because it’s minimally invasive since it relies on a blood draw from the mother, and can be used to rule out health conditions instead of going straight to a more risky procedure, such as an amniocentesis.

How Accurate Are DNA Tests?

DNA tests used during pregnancy to determine paternity and health issues are proven to be highly accurate.

In fact, DNA paternity tests are known to be 99.9 percent accurate 5. DNA science is so accurate that paternity testing can even determine the father in situations where multiple possible fathers are related and share DNA.

When it comes to the accuracy of prenatal genetic testing, advances in DNA science have helped doctors and laboratories give more accurate results that prior decades. Blood tests performed between the weeks 15 and 20 of pregnancy — called quad marker screens — can offer about 75 percent accuracy at detecting conditions like spina bifida, anencephaly, and Down syndrome.

In many cases, doctors and health care providers may follow up initial prenatal DNA testing and genetic screening with further tests, such as CVS or an amniocentesis for further information and accuracy regarding your baby’s health.

How Much Do DNA Tests Cost?

The cost of DNA tests varies greatly, depending on what exactly you are testing for, and what method of testing is used.

In addition, the cost of DNA testing recommended by your health care provider (such as a prenatal genetic screening) can also fluctuate based on if your insurance provider offers partial or full-coverage for the test.

On average, if at-home DNA testing kits can provide some information on a smaller budget. Tests such as home DNA paternity kits can range from $25 to $100 or more, though if you need paternity results to be admissible in court, expect to spend between $300 and $500 for a professionally administered test.

Some pregnant women choose to use popular DNA ancestry kits that offer health information, such as 23andMe, to gain insight about potential health issues that they may pass along to their unborn child. These kits can range between $50 and $150.

Because genetic testing that can identify your child’s chances of health issues is more invasive and must be done by a professional, the cost is significantly higher — between $400 and $2,000. That is because there is much more medical expertise required in these administering tests and analyzing data.

Are DNA Tests Covered By Insurance?

Whether or not your insurance will cover a DNA test depends greatly on why you need the test, where you live, and what kind of insurance you have.

Insurance providers will often offer some kind of coverage for testing if it is requested by a doctor, but even then the amount of coverage depends on your individual health care plan.

In cases where insurance companies do cover the cost of DNA testing used for genetic screening, many families consider the need to cover the testing out of pocket, for fear that test results could impact their child’s future ability to get health coverage. If you have this concern, it’s important to speak with your insurance company about how this information could possibly be used.

When it comes to paternity testing, most health insurance companies will not offer coverage because the testing is not medically required. Unfortunately, this means you should expect to pay out of pocket for DNA testing that will be used to identify the baby’s father.

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Referenced Sources

  1. Pregnancy and Chorionic Villus Sampling.
    WebMD. Retrieved online, December, 2018.
  2. Amniocentesis.
    Mayo Clinic. Retrieved online, December 2018.
    March of Dimes. Last reviewed: May, 2017.
  4. Noninvasive Prenatal Testing: A New Genetic Screening Tool for Use by Pregnant Women.
    Valerie Schaibley, PhD, Kenneth S. Ramos, MD, PhD, PharmB. Sep 14, 2018.
  5. DNA Paternity Test.
    Cleveland Clinic. Last Reviewed on: 06/20/2017.