Genetic testing is a technique which has been introduced in the field of medicine recently. With the help of this test, people can find out whether they are carrying a gene, which when combined with a similar one can cause a type of disease in the person or not. Apart from this, even pregnant women are opting for prenatal genetic testing to ensure that their unborn baby does not have any major genetic disorder.
• Genetic testing is recommended for people who have a family history of a genetic disease, have children who are born with genetic defects, and have gone through more than one miscarriage in the past.
• Also, pregnant women who are above the age of 35 are recommended to get this test done, because it is believed that the children of such women are at a high risk of developing genetic disorders.
• Though these tests are usually advised for people who have these risk factors, nowadays, most parents are opting for prenatal genetic testing to know whether their child has any abnormalities or not.
• This has led to several debates between people who support prenatal genetic testing and those who are against it. Hence, if you are pregnant and are thinking of getting this test done, it is important for you to know about its pros and cons.
• However, before we get into the pros and cons of this testing, let us take a look at what this test is actually about and how is it done.
Prenatal Genetic Testing
• Here, the mother's blood sample is taken and analyzed to know whether there are chances of the baby developing genetic disorders, like Down syndrome, neural tube defect, and trisomy 18.
• However, the results of this test can only show whether the baby is at a high risk or low risk of developing one of these diseases or not. In other words, the test cannot show accurately whether the baby will definitely acquire or not acquire this disease.
• Hence, if the results show a high risk, pregnant women can go through another test called amniocentesis. In this test, a sample of the amniotic fluid is taken from the mother's womb and tested.
• The results of this test are said to be 98% accurate. However, most couples are interested in knowing the pros and cons of genetic screening testing. Let us know more about this in the following passages.
Pros and Cons of Prenatal Genetic Testing
Though genetic testing is considered to be a useful tool by many health practitioners, there are people who are strongly against it because of social, psychological, moral, as well as religious reasons. So, let us take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages.
✔ Sometimes, the problems in an unborn baby can be rectified even before the baby is born, i.e., in the womb itself. In such cases, prior knowledge about some genetic defect can be a boon. If this is not possible, the doctors can prepare themselves to conduct a surgery as soon as the baby is born if the problem is a minor one.
✔ This testing gives the parents a choice to terminate the pregnancy if they are not ready to take the responsibility of a child who has genetic abnormalities. Many parents opt for an abortion, because they do not want their baby to suffer from genetic defects.
✔ Sometimes, parents go through this screening test not to abort the fetus but to prepare themselves mentally to take care of the child if he/she is born with abnormalities. This screening or testing is accompanied with counseling sessions that help the parents to deal with the situation and to take the final decision.
✔ People who are against genetic testing say that the anxiety caused by the results is the biggest disadvantage of these tests. Though the unborn baby might be carrying a mutation, it does not mean that he/she will surely have the problem. This also raises a question about the accuracy of the test.
✔ Apart from this, there are people who believe that terminating a baby's life just because he/she suffers a risk of developing a genetic disorder is not correct. There are various religious sects which believe that no one else other than God has the right to take the life of a person.
✔ Another disadvantage is that the tests are very expensive. Moreover, not all insurance companies are ready to cover the expenses of these tests.
Pros and Cons of DTC Genetic Testing
• As mentioned earlier, most couples who have the above-mentioned risk factors are recommended by their health professional to get the testing done.
• However, there are many people who opt for this test even when their doctors do not recommend it. This type of testing is called DTC, i.e., Direct-to-Consumer genetic testing.
• Nevertheless, there are certain pros and cons associated with DTC genetic testing as well. With this, people have a direct access to genetic testing along with the privacy of the results.
• However, it is said that there is a chance that people may misinterpret the results that causes a lot of anxiety which may also lead to improper decisions. Hence, it is better to get these tests done only under the supervision of a health practitioner.
As genetic testing has certain advantages as well as disadvantages, it is important to carefully weigh both these aspects before coming to a final conclusion. Discussing this issue with your physician may also make the decision-making process easier for you and your partner. All the best!
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.