Welcoming a new family member is a joyous occasion and it’s not unusual to want to know everything you can about the life growing inside of you. DNA tests make discoveries about your baby’s health and gender possible.
DNAGeek does all of the research on the prenatal DNA testing available on the market so you can find the one that best suits your needs.
Getting pregnant is a happy time for most people, however, this event often comes with questions such as is my baby healthy? Is he or she at an increased risk for chromosomal abnormalities?
The good news is there’s a way to test for this. Cell-free DNA tests exist to help answer these questions.
They serve to put your mind at ease and also to prepare you for the future so you can make important decisions should they arise.
If your question borders more on paternity or gender, you can actually test for that, too. There are a number of at-home and in-lab paternity tests that you can pay for to confirm paternity or gender tests to reveal whether your baby’s a boy or girl.
Depending on the type of test you take, you’ll either provide a buccal swab, saliva or blood sample. Results are readily available in just a few days or weeks, depending on the lab availability.
How Much Do Prenatal DNA Tests Cost?
The costs of a prenatal DNA test depends on the type of testing you have done. If you opt for a cell-free DNA test, you can expect to pay several hundreds of dollars if your insurance doesn’t cover it.
However, if you opt for an at-home paternity test, for example, most tests range between $15 and $120. There are several different price points, so you can compare the different brands to what they offer.
If you want to pay for expedited testing, however, this can raise your costs exponentially and not every company offers it. Most of the time you can only request to expedite lab testing ordered by your doctor and it’s an out-of-pocket cost that most insurance companies do not cover.
What Types of Prenatal DNA Tests Are Available?
There are a variety of prenatal DNA tests including cell-free, paternity and gender. Each of these tests looks for different markers to help answer the questions that may potentially arise during pregnancy.
You may opt to do one or all three types, depending on your situation.
Cell-Free DNA Tests
This type of fetal DNA testing looks to answer the questions about the baby’s overall health, particularly whether it’s at an elevated risk for chromosomal abnormalities. It’s done in a hospital, doctor’s office or in a laboratory at the request of a doctor.
How Is the Test Done?
The nurse or lab technician will take a vial of blood from the expectant mother and send it in for evaluation. During pregnancy the baby’s DNA mixes with the mother’s bloodstream, so technicians are able to isolate the baby’s DNA to search for disorders and abnormalities.
Some of the things that this genetic testing method looks for include, but are not limited to:
- Down’s Syndrome (also known as Trisomy 21)
- Trisomy 18
- Trisomy 13
- Trisomy 16
- Trisomy 22
Depending on how comprehensive the test is, it may also identify disorders such as Klinefelter Syndrome, which causes smaller testes and lower testosterone levels, and Prader-Willi Syndrome which can cause slow development and a higher risk for obesity in childhood due to poor feeding.
Is Cell-Free DNA Testing Mandatory?
Typically, no, you will not have to undergo this testing. Many expectant mothers refuse the tests on the basis that they either don’t want or don’t care to know. For some patients, such as those who have a geriatric pregnancy, doctors may recommend testing as the mother’s age can lead to an increased risk of birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities.
Is This Type of Testing Invasive?
No, there is no risk to the mother or the baby when prenatal cell-free DNA testing is done. All the doctor needs to do is collect a vial of blood, which is typical throughout the pregnancy anyway.
In the past, the only way this could be done was to do an amniocentesis, which involved taking an amniotic fluid sample, which put the baby at risk. Nowadays, non-invasive testing methods have proven to be just as effective and safer options.
Are the Results Accurate?
Yes, the results you receive are highly accurate, but not infallible. If any tests come back positive, there is the option to do follow-up testing to confirm the results.
What Happens if the Test Is Positive?
If you get a positive marker for either the abnormalities or disorders, it’s important not to rush to a decision. Your doctor will discuss all of the possibilities and may even refer you to a genetic counselor for further explanation.
It’s also crucial to understand that just because there’s an elevated risk, this does not mean that your baby will be born with any of the conditions.
Also, if the tests come back positive for chromosomal conditions, you may be referred for Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis testing to confirm the results. These tests tend to be more invasive, however, so you want to make sure you speak with your OB-GYN before making any decisions.
How Far Into Pregnancy Can Cell-Free DNA Tests Be Done?
For the best results, doctors recommend mothers having this test do it no earlier than the tenth week of pregnancy. Any sooner and the results are likely to be less effective, or even inconclusive.
Having it done more than once is also costly because insurance companies likely won’t cover the testing twice.
Paternity DNA Tests
While many people opt to have paternity tests done after the baby is born, there is the option to have it done during pregnancy as well. These tests are simple to carry out and are not invasive.
What Do You Need to Complete the Test?
To get started, all you need is a buccal swab from the potential father and a small blood sample from the mother. For most tests, a finger prick provides enough of a sample.
The potential father’s DNA is then compared to the isolated fetal DNA to determine if there is a potential match. Because a blood sample is required from the mother, these are not typically available online or in stores, but must be done in a medical facility or lab.
There are also special requirements if the paternity test is ordered by the court system. These tests must be taken under supervised conditions and maintain the chain of custody.
How Accurate Are the Results?
Paternity results, like most other DNA tests, as long as they carried out properly and handled with care, are greater than 99 percent accurate.
What Will the Results Show?
There are three potential outcomes of a prenatal paternity DNA test: excluded, not excluded and inconclusive. In order for a test to be not excluded, which means the man is likely the father, the match has to be greater than 99 percent.
If it’s 0 percent, then the result is excluded, which means there’s no likelihood that the man is the father. Inconclusive means the range fell between 0.01 percent and 98.9 percent, and a determination cannot be made.
How Soon Can Prenatal Paternity Tests Be Done?
The further along in the pregnancy the expectant mother is, the better. However, the tests can be done as early as the seventh week of pregnancy.
Gender DNA Tests
Finding out whether you’re having a boy or girl is exciting and while you have the option to find out at the 20-week health scan ultrasound, nobody could blame you for wanting to know sooner. Fortunately, there are some gender tests that you can take ahead of that 20-week scan.
How Does it Work?
A gender test uses a finger prick of blood or a urine sample and all the tools you need to collect the sample are included in the kit if you are doing it at home.
How Far Along Does the Pregnancy Have to Be?
Of course, the further along you are, the better the chances of a conclusive result, but some tests offer results as soon as the ninth week of pregnancy. This is 11 weeks sooner than you’d be able to find out via ultrasound.
How Accurate Are Gender DNA Tests?
Most kits offer a high percentage of accuracy, up to approximately 99 percent depending on the brand. Of course, there is always the chance that the test could be wrong, so it’s a good idea to hold off on the shopping or stick to neutral colors if you can until the ultrasound confirms the result.
Where Can You Get a Prenatal DNA Test Done?
This depends on the type of prenatal DNA test you’re looking to have completed. Gender kits can be done at home, which makes them convenient.
You can either pick up the tests in a store near you or order them online for delivery to your home. However, if you’re looking to have cell-free DNA testing, this is typically only offered in a medical setting.
Is DNA Testing Covered by Insurance?
This depends on whether or not you have the test done through a medical facility or if you order one of the at-home versions. Most insurance companies will cover cell-free DNA testing, but not paternity or gender since these are not considered medically necessary.
However, it’s worth checking with your insurance company to see if they will cover the tests. The worst they can do is say no.
How Much Does a Prenatal DNA Test Cost at the Hospital?
If you’re having a prenatal DNA test done at the hospital, you can likely expect to pay more than you would if you ordered an at-home kit. Gender and paternity tests at the hospital can cost several hundreds of dollars.
However, since cell-free tests aren’t available for at-home use, you’ll have to go through your healthcare professional.
If your insurance covers the testing, your out-of-pocket expense may be minimal. If it’s not covered, however, you may end up with a bill that exceeds $1,000.
Hospitals tend to be more expensive, so whenever possible try to have your testing done through your doctor’s office.
DNA Test Costs by Brand
There are several brands that offer gender reveal kits on the market, so you can expect a wide range of price points. Some brands that offer kits include ABC GeneTests, Harmony and SneakPeek.
All of the prices are current as of February 2019, though it’s worth noting that some brands may offer periodic discounts.
SneakPeek has an early gender test that sells for as little as $79, but you can opt to fast track the results for $149. This will get you your results within 3 days instead of the standard 5 to 7 days.
ABC GeneTests has an X or Y Gender Test that sells for $99.
Is It Possible to Buy Prenatal DNA Tests at a Drugstore?
It’s not currently possible to find prenatal DNA tests at the drugstore. You can, however, find them online on the retail websites of the companies who manufacture the kits.
Choosing the Best Lab for Prenatal DNA Testing
When it comes to choosing the best lab for prenatal DNA testing, this is purely a personal choice. If you’re not going through your healthcare professional’s office, you have to find one that suits your needs and makes you feel at ease.
Do your research and find out what testing methods they use, along with turnaround times so you’re fully informed before you go.
Choosing to have prenatal genetic testing done is something only you can decide. Some people choose to skip the tests, while others want to know everything they can before the baby’s born.
Both of these are acceptable because only you can make the decision that’s right for you.