How to Decide if You Should Have a Prenatal Test

Three Methods:Discuss the Prenatal Test with a Health ProfessionalConsider Your Medical HistoryDecide What You Would Do With the Information

Multiple prenatal tests exist to detect physical, mental, and genetic disorders in an unborn baby. If you are unsure whether you should get a prenatal test such as amniocentesis or CVS, consider the following steps to make your decision.

Method 1
Discuss the Prenatal Test with a Health Professional

In some circumstances, prenatal testing is more likely to be offered or encouraged by physicians and genetic testing services than in others. Having an open and honest discussion with your doctor may help answer many of your questions about prenatal testing and whether it is right for you.

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    Ask about potential risks involved with prenatal tests. Although prenatal tests may offer valuable information about the health of your baby, they also carry some risk to you and the baby.
    • Some tests have potential side effects or risks that may involve infection, a placental tear, and even miscarriage. Discuss the likelihood and severity of risks for each test and whether you may have any conditions that put you at a higher risk of these dangers.
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    Discuss whether the test can tell you what you want to know. Not every prenatal test can give you the same amount and quality of information.
    • Get a list of all the possible conditions the test can detect. If it is unable to tell you information about the specific condition you are interested in, you may want to forego the risk of the test.
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    Ask about prenatal test accuracy. Not every test is equally capable of accurately predicting the presence or absence of certain diseases.
    • In some cases, genetic markers may be present for certain diseases that may manifest only if certain other conditions are present. Other conditions, such as Down syndrome, may be very mild to very severe, but a prenatal test may not be able to give you sufficient information to gauge the likely severity of the condition.
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    Ask about all available prenatal test options. Some options are much less invasive and risky than others, and some give different types of information than others.
    • If you are concerned about tests that require samples of amniotic fluid or tissue, ask a health professional what non-invasive options for testing might give you similar information about your baby’s health, such as ultrasounds or parental genetic testing.

Method 2
Consider Your Medical History

Some women are more likely to give birth to a baby with birth defects or particular genetic diseases than others. If you are over 35, if you have other children with genetic disorders, or if your family has a medical history of serious illnesses or deformities, you may wish to weigh this history heavily in your decision regarding prenatal testing.

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    Consider your age and personal health. If you are in your late 30s or 40s, the likelihood of having a child with a disability or disorder increases significantly. If you know early on, you can research the disability to be prepared, or decide not to keep the baby if you can't handle it (e.g. putting it up for adoption).
    • In addition to being at higher risk of complications and premature delivery with increasing maternal age, you are more likely to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome or certain disabilities.
    • If you personally have a genetic disability, your child may be more likely to have the same condition.
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    Consider family medical history. Make a list of genetic conditions found in blood relatives both in your family and that of your partner.
    • If you are very concerned about your baby’s risk of having the a particular condition, discuss family genetics with a genetic counselor or physician prior to testing; some conditions may only affect one gender or may be recessive, which can significantly reduce your child’s chance of having the disease.
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    Get yourself and your partner genetic testing. In many cases, by simply examining both parents with a simple blood test, you can check for a wide range of conditions your baby could potentially have.
    • Many genetic conditions are recessive in nature and could only manifest in the baby if both parents are carriers and pass the recessive gene to the baby.
    • Remember that not all conditions are based on the parents’ genetics, and that genetic testing of both parents will not tell you whether the baby may have a developmental condition or chromosomal problem.

Method 3
Decide What You Would Do With the Information

Consider how you will personally be affected by the decision to have a prenatal test performed, and how the results may impact your pregnancy and emotional health. Every woman will need to consider her personal feelings, anxieties, and potential reactions to the news a prenatal test may bring. In addition, because the tests are not perfectly accurate, you will still have to live with a small possibility of uncertainty in the test results.

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    Determine whether it would change your decision to have the baby. Some women may choose not to continue with the pregnancy after receiving bad news on a prenatal test. Decide whether you are convinced that you want the baby regardless of test results prior to having a prenatal test.
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    Consider how the results may impact your pregnancy. Knowing the results of a prenatal test in advance may allow you to alter the way you eat or the frequency of your prenatal medical visits if medical professionals believe it will help prevent further risk to the baby.
    • In some cases, prenatal surgery or transfusions may be performed to reduce or prevent certain genetic or developmental problems.
    • If the test results indicate a genetic disorder or developmental disability, knowing in advance about a birth defect or condition will allow you to prepare during your pregnancy for higher medical or education expenses than anticipated, and not having to wonder may help you adjust to the idea of raising a child with a disability.
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    Consider how the results may affect your emotional health. In some cases, knowing what to expect in terms of health for your baby may put you at ease and reduce any anxieties, regardless of the test results. In others, knowing the results may only cause unnecessary stress, indecision, less effective mother-baby bonding, and even prenatal depression.
    • If a genetics counselor believes you to be at low risk of having a child with a problem detectable by prenatal testing, you may wish to avoid the test altogether.
    • If you are at high risk of having a baby with a detectable problem or if you believe you would prefer to receive difficult news during pregnancy instead of after your baby has arrived, you may wish to have the test to allow you time to prepare yourself emotionally and financially.


  • Consider seeking guidance from a religious minister or family counselor to help you decide; these professionals are often well equipped to help people deal with indecision and uncertainty, fear about the future, and parental concerns about the well-being of their children.
  • Give yourself time to come to a decision, as most tests have a range of time during which they can be performed.


  • Only submit to prenatal testing from a trained and licensed medical professional with experience in the techniques, as many prenatal tests are invasive and can carry significant risks if not administered correctly.

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Categories: Pregnancy