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The Latest on Genetic Testing via Noninvasive Prenatal Tests

When you're pregnant, all the information thrown at you can feel overwhelming. There's a screening for this and one for that. Your doctor is throwing terms at you like "genetic testing" and "noninvasive prenatal testing." How do you decide which tests to have? And what if something is wrong with your baby?

First, don't get too stressed—it's not good for the baby! What you need to know is that noninvasive prenatal testing is available to help you get an informative and healthy start to your pregnancy.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the newest screens are more sensitive than those that were available just a few years ago. A simple blood test, performed as early as nine weeks, can test for genetic abnormalities such as Down Syndrome and trisomies 18 and 13 with a remarkable degree of accuracy.

One such test is the Natera Panorama. Susan Gross, chief medical officer for Natera, says the test has a false positive rate of 0.1 percent. That means when a woman gets her results, it's 99.9 percent likely she will have an accurate understanding of what's going on inside her womb as it pertains to chromosomal abnormalities.

"This is the first test of its kind to differentiate between maternal and fetal DNA," Gross says.

Although it was previously believed that only women in high-risk categories would benefit from noninvasive prenatal testing, research indicates the test is appropriate for all risk levels and may eliminate the need for a procedure such as amniocentesis.

"You are getting ahead of any issues or complications your baby may face at birth," Gross says. "Think of the test as a way to help your baby. If you want to know everything and be completely prepared, this test is for you."

An added benefit of the Natera Panorama, specifically, is that it can determine the baby's gender as early as nine weeks by looking at the baby's sex chromosomes.

If you want to know more about this test as it pertains to your circumstances, ask your doctor. To understand more about other noninvasive prenatal tests on the market, refer to this table.