Most moms and dads-to-be can’t wait to find out if they are having a girl or a boy. While there are a few expectant parents with preference, most of them are equally happy regardless of the gender of the baby. And then, there are a few who are worried about sex-linked diseases like hemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (1). Parents generally find out about the baby’s gender by doing an ultrasound which usually happens around the 20th week (2). But thanks to recent technology, you can find out about your baby’s gender in the first trimester.
A Simple Finger Prick Test Can Tell You A Lot
You can now find out the baby’s gender with just a finger prick test. This test claims to be 99.95 % accurate and reveals the gender of the fetus at only 5 weeks of pregnancy (3). It can also be used to screen for other abnormalities.
It is called as noninvasive prenatal screening which can be used to detect certain chromosomal abnormalities in the growing fetus. It is also known as prenatal cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening. It is usually recommended for women who are beyond 10 weeks pregnant. The mother’s blood is taken and screened for specific chromosomal abnormalities which can cause Down syndrome, trisomy 13, and trisomy 18 among others. From the mother’s blood sample, they are able to extract both the mother’s and baby’s DNA (4).
Other than these abnormalities, doing a noninvasive prenatal screening can also help in identifying other abnormalities like triploidy, trisomy 16, trisomy 22, microdeletion syndrome, and a few single-gene disorders which affect the skeleton and the bones. This screening can be more sensitive when compared to other traditional screenings which are done during the first and second trimester (5).
Things To Keep In Mind
The cfDNA is considered to be less effective when it’s done on pregnant women who are expecting multiples, obese, women who have taken some blood thinners, women who got pregnant with a donor egg, and women who are less than 10 weeks pregnant.
It poses no physical risks for the mother or the baby, but it might cause anxiety. And though it screens many chromosomal abnormalities, it doesn’t screen all of them. So getting a negative test doesn’t ensure a safe pregnancy.
How To Prepare Yourself
If you are interested in doing a cfDNA screening, talk to your doctor about its availability. You can also check if your insurance covers the cost of the screening.
It’s important to make sure that you are aware of all the possible results and its consequence for you and the baby before you undergo the screening. You can also raise your questions and concerns with your doctor to have a better understanding.
What To Expect
You can do a prenatal cell-free DNA screening as early as the 10th week of your pregnancy. During the procedure, a blood sample will be taken and sent to the lab to analyze your DNA as well as your baby’s. You will be able to receive the test results within a period of two weeks.
If the results come back as normal, you won’t need further testing. But if it indicates a potential risk of chromosomal abnormality, follow-up tests might be needed to confirm the risk.
And if you did the test to know the gender of your baby, you can start painting the baby room with pink or blue. You can also start buying cute baby clothes and onesies, and also pick out a baby name. For some parents, knowing the gender of the baby will help them to bond better.
Though the noninvasive prenatal screening helps to promote fetal health, this test can easily be abused. Especially in countries like India and China where a boy child is valued more than girls, this screening does raise some concerns among all. We are yet to see how this test can be best utilized in countries where female foeticides are prevalent.