Table of Contents
While life is full of uncertainties, the health and well-being of your unborn child should not be one of them. Luckily, we now have resources that can help determine if there are any harmful defects present while a child is still in the womb.
Known as non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), these assays can help detect anything from chromosomal anomalies to even the sex and blood type of a baby.
Whether you’re still in the planning stage or are currently pregnant, taking the time to learn more about NIPT can help provide much-needed answers to some of the questions that surround pregnancy. Here is a breakdown of the various types of prenatal screening tests and how they can help you:
What is NIPT?
Before we can dive deeper into the benefits of NIPT, it’s important to first understand what exactly NIPT is and what it entails. In the most basic of terms, NIPT is a type of screening that can analyze your baby’s DNA to determine if there are any chromosomal or genetic anomalies present.
Samples typically come from your own blood, and do not require samples from your unborn baby. Because of this, NIPT is recognized as quite safe and does not come with the same risks as things like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), both of which can lead to the accidental loss of pregnancy.
The Different Types of Prenatal Screenings Tests
Your OBGYN may advise that you undergo prenatal testing while you are pregnant. There are a few reasons they may recommend this. If you are of advanced maternal age (that is, you are older than thirty-five), you or your partner have a history of genetic or chromosomal disorders, or if you have high-risk lifestyle contraindications, you might be a prime candidate for testing.
To date, there are three main types of prenatal screenings tests you can undergo. These include:
- NIPT. NIPT is safe, non-invasive, and can be done as early as nine weeks. This type of test can determine if your unborn child is at risk of certain chromosomal defects (such as Down syndrome). Following this test, a diagnostic test may be recommended to verify positive results.
- Screening Tests. Like NIPT, prenatal screenings tests are also safe and does not cause a miscarriage. It can be completed as early as week ten and can reveal the presence of other chromosomal defects (such as Down syndrome or Kleinfelter syndrome, as well as spina bifida). A diagnostic test may also be advised following the screening.
- Diagnostic Testing. Diagnostic testing is the most accurate and invasive type of prenatal testing and can be performed anywhere between week ten and week fifteen. These types of tests are higher risk and may lead to the loss of your unborn child. Before undergoing diagnostic testing, you should discuss these risks extensively with your healthcare provider.
The decision to undergo prenatal testing is a highly personal one. If you decide to move forward with it, be sure to consult your OBGYN and genetic counselor, as they can help you better navigate the intricacies of the testing and the results.
Possible Risks of NIPT
No doubt, there are numerous benefits to undergoing NIPT when you are pregnant. These include a better understanding of the potential genetic defects your child may have, the biological sex of your baby, and most importantly, the peace of mind of knowing that your child may be born healthy and free from these serious conditions.
That said, there are a few things to consider when choosing NIPT. For instance, some parents may discover that their baby may have a health concern that may require medical intervention. If you decide to undergo NIPT, then staying in touch with your genetic counselor is important. Your genetic counselor can help you interpret your results and allow you to better understand them and what they mean.
Taking Steps for Your Future
No matter where you are in your pregnancy, learning about NIPT can be one of the best decisions for yourself and your unborn baby. It can allow you to take charge of your pregnancy and feel safe and comfortable throughout the process.