Pregnancy is a beautiful thing.The promise of new life, complete with anticipation for the future is a joyous event for many. Planning for the newest addition to the family is often a delightful, not to mention exciting task. However, there are times as mom and dad-to-be prepare their home and hearts for a little one, some find themselves facing the possibility of genetic defects to their unborn child. Previously, no one knew that traces of the baby’s DNA could be found in the mother’s blood.
Until recently, the only means by which parents could examine the risks of genetic defects was by a blood test which examined the genetic factors present within the blood that might indicate certain hereditary defects. The test is relatively standard and is not far-reaching in its capacity to truly detect potential harm. In addition, the test is not 100 percent effective. In fact, it has gained quite the reputation for its high incidence of false positives.
For parents, news of this kind can be heart wrenching to say the least. Adding insult to injury, the blood test can take weeks to process; therefore, expectant parents can only wait on bated breath and hope for the best. If the situation warrants further investigation, often the only thing to turn to is a risky amniocentesis.
An amniocentesis is a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the skin and amniotic fluid is withdrawn for testing. Sometimes, this process causes the mother to go into labor, thus risking the safety of the developing baby. In order to assess the situation in accuracy, some sort of testing must be done in situations that pose a significant risk; however, there are also situations in which parents would just have to wait until the birth to have the answers they need.
This is not always a realistic option and the absence of knowledge can create a sense of anxiety. Thankfully, modern medicine has found a way to bridge the gap between baby’s safety and parents’ peace of mind. There is now specific testing targeted at examining the mother’s blood by a different means.This new type of testing extracts data from fetal DNA adrift within the mother’s blood stream. This process provides virtually the same information as an amniocentesis without the risk factor to the baby.
The fact that mother’s blood houses the baby’s own genetic information is great news for expectant parents and for the physicians who provide care for the unborn baby. If a risk is present in the genetic makeup, the physician can then explain the risks to the parents and develop a plan of action for the benefit of the baby.
Alternatively, testing such as this can put to rest any fear and trepidation over certain genetic defects because the test is equally effective to disprove any speculation that the infant will be born with a certain family conditions. Regardless of which end of the spectrum people find themselves on in their journey toward parenthood, this type of genetic testing provides both the answers that parents need and the peace of mind that there are no risks involved in the procedure.
Uncertainty is the biggest factor. No one wants to wonder about the “what if’s.” Modern medicine and its advances in DNA testing have taken great strides for the benefit of science, but most importantly, for the benefit of the families who depend on it everyday. Now that scientists have discovered that the mother’s blood holds the key, the prospective parents can rest assured that they will be given the answers they need with very little wait-time.
By J.A. Johnson