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The Best Times to Conduct a Prenatal DNA Test

Prenatal DNA Testing
Written by Christina Moore

If you have a family history of genetic disorders or if you are 35 years of age or older, you may already be considering prenatal DNA testing

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If you have a family history of genetic disorders or if you are 35 years of age or older, you may already be considering prenatal DNA testing. If so, you may be wondering when would be the right time conduct a prenatal DNA test, or if it even matters when you choose to have the test.

What is the timeline for performing prenatal DNA testing?

Each prenatal diagnostic test requires a different gestation period for testing. The test you choose will most likely depend on the genetic disorder for which your baby is at risk. Your doctor will inform you of which abnormalities should be screened and which tests will be the most effective screening options.

First Trimester

CVS, or chorionic villus sampling, is an invasive procedure used to diagnose Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and Patau syndrome. The test also detects genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, and sickle cell anemia. The gestation period suggested for performing this test lies between gestation weeks 10-12.

Cell-Free DNA Testing is a non-invasive prenatal DNA test, requiring nothing more than a blood draw from the mother and can be performed as early as week 10 in gestation. This test is used to detect Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and patau syndrome, along with other chromosomal anomalies that are reported as Additional Findings.

Second Trimester

Amniocentesis is what physicians will suggest if they are suspicious of a neural tube defect. This test can also serve to diagnose Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and Patau syndrome. It is recommended that the test be conducted between weeks 15 – 20 of gestation.

Cordocentesis, although only conducted by physicians if a test result cannot be obtained through CVS or amniocentesis, is performed during the second trimester anytime after gestation week 17. This test is primarily used by physicians to test for anemia in the fetus and can also be used to administer a blood transfusion to the fetus if needed.

Can I choose to perform a test before the recommended gestation period?

Some parents will want test results earlier on so that they can make decisions on continuing with the pregnancy or to get a head start on planning for the future of their child. For decisions such as these, it is important to have all of the information in front of you as soon as you can, to give yourself time to absorb and assess whatever information the tests may provide. You may also consider meeting with a genetic counselor who can provide additional information, as well as emotional support and clarity, while you process the results of your screening tests.

However, opting to have any of these procedures done before the indicated time could result in a higher percentage of risks. It is best to perform the tests during the recommended gestation time indicated to you by your physician. If you have further questions or concerns, bring them up with your healthcare provider as he or she can provide authoritative guidance on these issues.

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About the author

Christina Moore

Christina Moore is a part time blogger and full time adventurer! Originally from the east coast, she now resides in San Diego. If she's not writing you can find her on the beach soaking up the sun.