What are the Pros and Cons of Prenatal Genetic Testing?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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Undergoing prenatal genetic testing has several pros and cons. On the plus side, it allows for planning for possible developmental issues, determine the viability of the fetus, and establish paternity. On the negative side, it carries a risk of harming the fetus and can increase the likelihood of miscarriage. Genetic testing is also not 100% accurate and can cause emotional issues for the woman or couple if they are faced with the decision of whether to terminate the pregnancy.

Prenatal genetic testing can provide parents with the information needed to plan for any special needs their future child may have. It can determine whether birth defects such as a cleft lip or spina bifida are present, thus providing parents with time to plan for treatment options and possible surgeries. For developmental issues such as Down's syndrome and other trisomies such as Edward’s syndrome, prenatal genetic testing gives parents time to prepare for the possibility of raising a child with such a condition.

In most pregnancies, a fetus that is incompatible with life will miscarry. There are some cases, however, where the pregnancy continues, regardless of the fact that the fetus will almost surely pass away immediately after birth. In these cases, prenatal genetic testing can be helpful in determining whether it is safe or beneficial to carry the pregnancy to term, thus protecting the health of the mother and protecting the fetus from unnecessary pain.


Another pro of prenatal genetic testing is establishing paternity before the child is born. This can streamlines custody and child support arrangements. Genetic testing can be performed with an amniocentesis relatively early in the pregnancy. The DNA gathered from this test can be compared to the DNA of possible fathers to determine who is legally responsible for the child.

Possibly one of the biggest cons of prenatal genetic testing is the emotional impact it can have on both parents. This type of testing often gives them a choice as to whether or not to continue a pregnancy. For some, this can be considered a good thing. It can, however increase the chances of emotional trauma or guilt in terms of either carrying to term or deciding to terminate.

While genetic testing improves every year, certain risks still exist. The two most common genetic tests, chronic villus and amniocentesis, increase the risk of miscarriage and, in some cases, can potentially harm the fetus. This type of testing is also not always accurate. Fetuses diagnosed with certain issues may be born perfectly healthy, and those believed to be healthy in the womb may not be.


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The cost of genetic testing has come down over time. People can buy kits online and test their own DNA and even find long lost relatives. Simple DNA paternity tests can be purchased from stores like Walgreens and Walmart for as low as $26. Full DNA testing by a company called Illumina costs about $5,000. 23andMe tests cost about $99.

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