Explore the Pros and Cons of Prenatal Testing

Explore the Pros and Cons of Prenatal Testing

Explore the Pros and Cons of Prenatal Testing
Technology has greatly improved our ability to perform diagnostic tests during pregnancy. During each trimester of pregnancy, the mother and baby have different exams that help find out how healthy and well they are overall.  Fortunately, doctors can help parents learn more about their baby's health before he or she is born. Doctors can then administer life-saving and life-enhancing treatments to the baby if needed.

Pre-screenings help mothers weigh the risks of having a complicated pregnancy or birth. Many common procedures for testing, like ultrasounds and blood work, carry little to no risks at all. More extensive and invasive tests, however, come with a separate set of potential circumstances. 

Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of prenatal testing and if it would be worth it for you!

Routine Tests and Screenings

Routine Tests and Screenings
Genetic, ethnic, and historical factors may play a part in a baby’s wellness. Some screenings are done before diagnostic testing should continue to help figure out these odds more accurately.

Common tests during pregnancy include urine, blood, and blood pressure tests. These are typical during every prenatal visit and have a variety of benefits. 

  • Checking your blood pressure when visiting your doctor is important because it measures your risk for preeclampsia after the 20th week of pregnancy. High blood pressure can cause several complications besides preeclampsia. It can cause diseases, preterm birth, congenital heart defects, and more. Checking your blood pressure at home can help you monitor BP between prenatal appointments. 
  • Urinalyses help your doctors test for infections in the kidney or bladder. Many women experience kidney or urinary infections during pregnancy, which is why this test is done so often. 

Kidney infections can cause more discomfort for a pregnant woman than is necessary. What’s worse, their baby can be born prematurely or with a low birth weight.  

  • Blood tests determine the existence of some severe infections and conditions. STDs can be detected through blood tests, which could be passed on to the infant if they aren’t treated. These tests also help doctors find out if the mother is anemic. 
  • Pregnant women with anemia are typically directed to eat more iron-rich foods and are monitored a little bit more, so the baby can be carried safely to term. 

Carrier screenings use a small amount of blood or saliva from the parents to find out if they are carriers of a genetic condition. A blood sample can also be used for cell-free DNA testing to help find out if there are any genetic conditions.

These are all non-invasive tests and screenings, only requiring small samples from the mother, and nothing is done to the fetus. The pros here are much more important than the cons, because they all set the stage for the whole pregnancy and prepare everyone involved. 

The only cons that come from these basic tests are:

  • Mild discomfort from needle sticks
  • Some non-invasive prenatal screenings can be inaccurate. Chromosomal screenings are sensitive and could cause a false positive or negative result. This could prompt a mother to undergo testing or believe everything will be fine without a definitive answer. 

Riskier Tests: Pros & Cons

Riskier Tests: Pros & Cons
Some people may feel the need to go through more accurate testing, either after positive chromosomal screenings or as an extra precaution. These tend to be significantly riskier than your simple, run-of-the-mill prenatal tests and exams. They each have their own pros and cons. 

Amniocentesis is usually performed after the 15th week of pregnancy. It involves inserting a long needle into the abdominal wall. The needle goes through the amniotic sac to get a small amount of fluid for testing. 

Analysis through amniocentesis can discover the presence of a genetic or chromosomal condition, like Edward’s, Down’s, or Patau’s syndromes. This test can also tell you about neural tube defects, infections in the mother, and Rh incompatibility.

Chronic Villus Sampling (CVS) is a test much like amniocentesis, except it removes placental tissue instead. CVS can be done either through the abdomen or through the cervix, and it can be done as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy.

The cons of these prenatal tests are minimal and rare. They include:

  • The .25-1% risk of miscarriage
  • The risk of inaccurate results
  • The possibility of uterine infections
  • Cramping or bleeding after the procedure

The Takeaway

To know or not to know-that is the question! 

The pros involved here are more simple and straightforward than the cons. If the mother knows that she is more at risk of having a baby with potential congenital issues, she will have some peace of mind after the procedures are completed, regardless of the results. 

Having that extra bit of knowledge will help parents prepare for a new baby in the best way possible. Preparing for a baby with potential congenital conditions can help doctors get ready for possible treatments and neonatal care as well. 

It’s also important during pregnancy to care for one’s health through stress relief and avoidance.

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