Genetic Screening Before Pregnancy
The amount of testing available before and during pregnancy can be confusing and overwhelming. Family history is still the best first step, but some testing may make sense even with no known health problems in the family.
Carrier Testing for Childhood Conditions
Sometimes mom and dad are healthy, but each passes a non-working gene to their child to cause a genetic disease. The parents are called carriers because they are healthy, but have one working and one non-working copy of the gene. Parents won’t know they are carriers without special DNA testing.
Choices for testing
Some labs offer tests that screen for >250 diseases. It is also possible to order tests for just one condition if the parents know about a genetic disease in the family.
Not all conditions
The tests don’t include all conditions and can’t find all the DNA causes for the diseases on the test. Therefore, knowing the health of your family can still be important.
Choices in pregnancy
Many genetic diseases cannot be treated. Parents can choose, however, to test their pregnancies, or to consider in vitro fertilization (IVF) to test embryos.
Several laboratories offer carrier testing for a cash price of $250 for the woman and $100 for her partner. Many health plans do not cover these tests until a woman is already pregnant, but she has fewer choices at that point. Check your own policy for what your health plan offers.
Conditions That Affect Adults
Some genetic diseases show up for the first time in adults. Examples are certain inherited cancers, like those caused by the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, or certain inherited heart conditions that can cause severe symptoms or even death at very young ages.
Testing for pregnancy
Typical pregnancy screens don’t include diseases that affect adults. However, some families want IVF to test embryos or sometimes test a pregnancy.*
Limits of testing
There are many different tests available. We can help you decide if a test is for you, and if so, which one. Regardless, these tests cannot find all inherited conditions.
Science Is changing
Although your DNA will not change, what we know about DNA may. Therefore, people who have DNA testing should check back, especially if something new happens in the family.
Laws protect your right to health insurance and employment, but not long-term care, life, or disability insurance. You can read more here.
Many insurance plans will cover medical DNA testing if there is a health problem in the person or family. However, some labs also offer tests for healthy adults for as low as $250.
*For couples with a known risk to have a child with a serious inherited disorder, IVF may be an option even if the couple does not have infertility.