Options for expectant mothers for genetic test continue to benefit from new tests coming to market. At Your Fertility Friend, we stay up-to-date on your test options as well as the different benefits or concerns that pregnant mothers and families may want to consider.
Our Guide to DNA Testing and Pregnancy
Prenatal paternity testing is often performed for legal or personal reasons to determine the father of an unborn baby. Pregnancy can often feel overwhelming as it is, and it can feel worse if you’re unsure of the paternity.
It can help ease your mind to determine who the father is before your child is even born to help protect their future and to have a more accurate medical history to provide your health care providers.
You may also want to check to make sure your baby is healthy and doesn’t have Down Syndrome or other genetic or chromosomal abnormalities to ease your mind before birth. Testing while pregnant can help answer your questions fast, allowing you to plan ahead.
Can You Do a DNA Test During Pregnancy?
The short answer is, yes, you can do a DNA test during your pregnancy, allowing you to find out the results you are looking for much sooner. Approximately 40.3 percent of babies in the United States are born to single mothers and there are married women who also may be unsure of who the father of their child is.
Another reason you might want to consider getting a DNA test while you’re pregnant is to determine if your baby is at risk of having chromosomal abnormalities by learning more about your family history.
How Soon Can You Take a DNA Test During Pregnancy?
How soon you can take a DNA test during pregnancy depends on the type of testing you choose, but generally can be done as early as eight weeks without any risk to mom or the baby.
You’ll want to choose a non-invasive type of DNA Prenatal Paternity test (NIPP) for early on to ensure there is no risk of miscarriage or any other risk to yourself or to your developing baby. Invasive methods require the fetus to be more developed before they can be performed.
What Types of DNA Tests Can Be Done During Pregnancy?
There are three types of DNA tests that can be performed while you are pregnant; Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity (NIPP), Amniocentesis, and Chorionic Villus Sampling. Testing a fetus for Down Syndrome can be performed with all three methods.
1. Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity (NIPP): DNA is collected from the mother and the potential father and analyzed with the baby’s DNA found in the mother’s bloodstream.
2. Amniocentesis: This invasive DNA testing occurs around weeks 14 to 20. Using ultrasound, a doctor carefully inserts a needle into the mom’s cervix through the abdomen. Amniotic fluid is then collected and analyzed. This method does come with the risk of miscarriage and other side effects that include leaking amniotic fluid, cramping, and vaginal bleeding. This procedure can only be performed by a doctor.
3. Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS): This type of testing is performed from weeks 10 to 13. A doctor will insert a needle or tube in the vagina and guide it to the cervix using an ultrasound. Once it’s through the cervix, a sample of chorionic villi gets collected. The chorionic villi are pieces of tissue attached to the cervix wall. You can only receive this type of testing through a doctor.
What Does “Non-Invasive” DNA Test Mean?
Non-invasive DNA testing is the only type of DNA testing that poses no harm to the mother or the developing fetus. This type of testing is performed by a collection of DNA from the mother, typically a sample of blood, and DNA from the potential father, which is usually collected from swabbing the inside of his cheek.
The main difference between non-invasive and invasive testing is that when invasive testing is performed, it requires probes and/or needles being inserted into the uterus and does come with a variety of risks to mom and baby.
Where Can You Get a DNA Test Done While Pregnant?
Where you get a DNA test done while pregnant is determined by which type of testing you wish to receive. The two invasive methods, amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling, require a qualified doctor so these can only be performed at medical facilities such as your doctor’s office.
NIPP testing can be done anywhere blood can be drawn safely from the mother. The results then must be sent to a laboratory, so they can be compared and examined efficiently.
To make your results legally binding, you must choose a laboratory that follows the Chain of Custody and have the DNA from both parties taken at a medical testing facility.
Can You Buy Prenatal DNA Tests Over the Counter?
You can purchase an ancestry DNA collection kit over the counter at many pharmacies including CVS and Walgreens. They generally contain a detailed instruction book that tells you step-by-step what you need to do so you can collect the DNA in the privacy of your own home. The kits also explain where you send your samples to and what you can expect to happen next.
One benefit to at-home testing is that you can register online and receive the results within a few short days online and the results are completely confidential.
At-home tests cannot provide legally binding results though. They are only used for curiosity and peace of mind. NIPP testing kits cannot be purchased in a store.
Is It Safe to Do a DNA Test During Pregnancy?
The Non-Invasive DNA Prenatal test (NIPP) comes with no physical risks to mom or baby. Invasive DNA testing does come with risks though and might not be considered completely safe for mom or the baby.
The risk of miscarriage from an amniocentesis is small, only around 0.1 to 0.3 percent, but that risk is still there. Mom’s can also encounter an injury caused by the needle or develop an infection.
Chorionic villus sampling also comes with many of the same risks as amniocentesis, including a 0.5 to 1 percent chance risk of miscarriage.
How is DNA Testing Done During Pregnancy?
Since there are various types of DNA testing that can be done during pregnancy, the methods used vary. Non-invasive DNA testing for paternity requires a blood sample from the mom and a sample from the potential father, usually a cheek swab.
Once the results are collected, they are then sent to an accredited laboratory. The laboratory technician will then analyze the free-floating DNA from the fetus that comes from the mother and compares it to the mother’s DNA. That process determines the profile of the fetus which is then compared to the data collected by the potential father.
If you want to check more than one person as a potential father, many laboratories will let you do that for an additional fee. If you are expecting twins, the non-invasive DNA test will not work as the test is only for one fetus.
How Accurate are Prenatal DNA Tests?
The results of non-invasive prenatal DNA testing vary depending on the laboratory you send your samples to.
There are some things to look for when choosing one. You want to make sure the lab stands behind their results. Also, make sure they are fully accredited and have a good reputation.
Be mindful if you see pricing that seems “too good to be true,” it probably is one that you should avoid. Most results from NIPP results are 99.9 percent accurate.
The accuracy of the amniocentesis DNA tests is around 99 percent accurate for testing a fetus for Down Syndrome and trisomy 18. When testing for open neural tube defects, the accuracy is approximately 98 percent.
Chorionic villus sampling testing is performed to detect genetic disorders and abnormalities with chromosomes and has a high accuracy rate of 98 to 99 percent.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a DNA Test While Pregnant?
Ancestry DNA testing during pregnancy will cost you the price of the collection kit, typically under $50 as of January 2019, and the price of the laboratory testing.
Some DNA testing, such as ancestry DNA testing offers a basic test as well as a much more in-depth, which does alter the price.
It’s important to do your research to determine these costs well ahead of time, especially if you need the results to be admissible in court because that will make the cost higher than testing just for personal reasons.
With amniocentesis testing, if you’re not covered by health insurance, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 upwards to $7,200. Chorionic villus sampling for someone that is uninsured can cost anywhere from $1,300 to $4,800.
Does Insurance Cover Prenatal DNA Testing?
A Non-Invasive DNA Prenatal Paternity test (NIPP) typically will not be covered by your health insurance because it isn’t considered a medical necessity.
Most insurance companies will cover amniocentesis testing because it can be a medical necessity, but you might end up needing a referral from your doctor to make sure the test is covered.
Your insurance might also cover chorionic villus sampling, especially if you have certain risk factors such as being over 35 and have a medical history of specific genetic diseases.
Your insurance company may ask for proof from your doctor that this test is needed before they’ll cover it. Most doctors won’t recommend invasive prenatal DNA testing unless it’s medically necessary, so getting proof for your insurance company to cover the procedure shouldn’t be too difficult.
How Long Does It Take to Get the Results from a Prenatal DNA Test?
Since there are numerous types of prenatal DNA tests available, the time it takes to receive the results greatly varies with each test. It can typically take around 3 to 12 weeks to see results.
If you go with the ancestry DNA methods, you will have to purchase the collection kit, send it to a laboratory, and then wait for them to receive the samples and send back the results.
It can sometimes be time-consuming, but it does depend on the laboratory you send your samples to. Some can have your results as early as one to two days after receiving your samples.
When you undergo amniocentesis testing, it can take anywhere from three days to three weeks to see the results. If you’re only testing for a certain condition, the results will typically come back quicker than if you are testing for a variety of conditions.
There is a chance your results can take longer than this and it’s not something you should panic about. Sometimes it can take some time for the cells to grow in order to obtain accurate results.
The results of chorionic villus sampling are usually ready and available within five to 10 days. If you are testing for a specific disorder though, you can expect to wait a little bit longer for the results.
You should have a conversation with your health care physician about when to expect the results because they’ll be able to give you a more accurate time window.
Can I Use Prenatal DNA Test Results in Court?
DNA testing performed before the baby is born can be used in court, but it depends on your state and its requirements. You’re not able to use at home prenatal DNA test results in court because they must follow a specific procedure to ensure the DNA was collected by both parties and not tampered with in any way.
A specific Chain of Custody must be used, both parties must be present at a medical testing facility, and it must be court ordered. There is a strict process in place that begins with the retrieval of the DNA samples and ends with determining the paternal relationship.
Lawyers may ask the parties in question to wait until after the baby is born to perform this testing using the Chain of Custody process.
Postnatal DNA testing is usually performed by collecting DNA from the umbilical cord right after delivery, blood sample, or cheek swab.
If you’re considering prenatal paternity testing or testing for any genetic abnormalities, you should explore all the options before you settle on one of them.
The first option to explore should be non-invasive prenatal paternity testing as it poses no risk of harm to the baby or mom.
Paternity testing, while not something that can be used in court, can help ease your mind and help you build the proper support system to help you during pregnancy and after the baby is born.
Consider over-the-counter DNA collection kits for a convenient way to start the process of finding out who the father is. Always make sure to follow the instructions on the collection kits to receive the most accurate results.