New DNA Test Tells Baby's Sex At 7 Weeks Pregnant
An article in the New York Times Wednesday reports that a new, highly accurate non-invasive blood test can determine a baby’s sex as early as seven weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. The test uses fetal DNA in the mother’s blood to uncover the mystery every expectant mother wants to know: boy or girl? More importantly, according to a report published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this test, when used correctly can uncover rare genetic diseases in the unborn baby, some of which only affect one gender.
I had both my kids later in life. I was 36 years old when I had my daughter and 39 when my son was born. Anyone over 35 is considered of “advanced maternal age” and advised to have an amniocentesis. According to WebMD, “Amniocentesis is a prenatal test in which a small amount of amniotic fluid is removed from the sac surrounding the fetus and is tested. The sample of amniotic fluid (less than one ounce) is removed through a fine needle inserted into the uterus through the abdomen, under ultrasound guidance. The fluid is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.” The test determines with a high degree of certainty (99 percent) whether the baby will be healthy. There is a small (1 percent) risk of miscarriage with amniocentesis.
When my doctor told me that amniocentesis results would not be available until I was between 15-18 weeks pregnant, I panicked. Should I have the test, knowing that by the time results came back 2-3 weeks later, I’d be almost five months pregnant? Should I forgo the test and hope for the best? I asked my doctor about other options. As it turns out, there is another option, a newer test for prenatal genetic diseases, called Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS). According to Babycenter.com, “CVS is a prenatal test that detects chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, as well as a host of other genetic disorders. The doctor takes cells from tiny fingerlike projections on the placenta called the chorionic villi and sends them to a lab for genetic analysis. The main advantage of CVS over amniocentesis is that you can have it done earlier — generally between 11 and 12 weeks of pregnancy.”
I opted for the CVS test with both my pregnancies. I wasn’t trying to use the test to find out whether I’d be having a boy or a girl (I would have been happy with either gender). I wanted to make sure my baby was healthy and if there was a problem, I’d know about it in advance.
I’m strongly pro-choice. I've volunteered for Planned Parenthoold and supported pro-choice causees for years. Since I became a mom, my belief in a woman’s right to choose has only strengthened. The right to determine whether to have a child is a woman’s choice and must remain her choice. This new DNA test has both pros and cons. The ability to find out if your baby is healthy very early in the pregnancy, with a high degree of accuracy (95 percent) without the risk of miscarriage is a huge benefit for pregnant women who want to know if their unborn child has any one of an array of serious genetic diseases.
The drawback of this test is the almost certain potential for its misuse. Would a woman have an abortion because she finds out the child will not be the gender she wants? That could happen and it alarms medical experts because, while the test has the potential to improve prenatal care, it also creates the possibility for abuse.
The DNA test is not regulated by the FDA, although the agency is investigating it since in the past few years, it has been for sale over the counter through private companies. One of these companies, Acu-Gen, filed bankruptcy several years ago. A Texas woman sued Acu-Gen, now out of business, because after sending in a blood sample, she was told she would be having a boy. She decorated a boy’s nursery and bought clothes for a baby boy. Once her daughter was born, she sued and received a refund. Women can purchase these test kids over the counter and send in blood samples to get results about their unborn baby’s sex.
The day of my CVS test, I walked nervously into the doctor’s office. I was about 11 weeks pregnant. The test was quick and easy, like a pap test. Waiting for the results was more difficult. When the nurse called with the results, my husband answered my cell phone since I was too nervous. He spoke to the nurse briefly. When he got off the phone, he gave me the update.
“Great news,” my husband said. “Everything’s fine!”
“Are you positive you heard the nurse correctly?” I asked him.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Call her back again, just to be really sure,” I pleaded, my hands shaking.
He did and the nurse reassured him that everything was fine.
I was incredibly relieved. I had avoided both a miscarriage and an unborn child with health problems. I was also shocked into the realization that I was four months pregnant, visibly showing and in my opinion, very far along if I had been given bad news about my unborn baby. Would I have been able to go through with an abortion when I was so far along in my pregnancy? I can’t answer that question and thankfully I didn’t have to.
For those women who must make the agonizing decision to terminate a pregnancy because the unborn fetus has a genetic disease, I believe this new DNA test, or any new test which offers an earlier way to learn about the unborn fetus' health, is promising and advances prenatal care in the right direction.