What To Ask Your Doctor About Prenatal Genetic Testing

Updated: February 12, 2020
If you're going through the process of prenatal genetic testing, you probably have a lot of questions. Here are the questions you should ask your doctor throughout the process to ensure you're fully prepared and get the most out of it.
Mom and dad receiving genetic testing results from female doctor
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Whether you’re pregnant or planning to grow your family soon, many couples will decide to do prenatal genetic testing. Genetic testing can give you information regarding what your future child may be predisposed to or whether a current fetus has genetic disorders. If you’re ready to make the leap here are eight questions to ask your doctor to be fully prepared.

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1. What types of genetic screening tests are there?  

There are carrier tests done on the parents prior to pregnancy to see if either parent carries certain genes that make up genetic disorders. If you are already pregnant, there are also blood tests and ultrasounds that can be done to screen the fetus for abnormalities. These tests are all non-invasive, but asking your doctor for information regarding your options will help narrow down which route you would like to take.

2. What does the genetic testing process involve? 

Is it blood work, urine cultures, ultrasounds or something else? How many times will you have to return? If you’re already pregnant, are there different tests during different trimesters? Get a well-rounded answer now so that you aren’t surprised when the time to test comes.

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3. What does the timeline look like? 

How soon after testing will you receive results? Better to ask now than to be anxiously waiting on results that might take a while to analyze.

4. How accurate are prenatal genetic screening tests? 

As with any testing, there is always room for error. Ask your doctor what the rate of error is, whether positive or negative in testing, so that you know before results come back what the likelihood of accuracy is.

5. What are the chances you can pass a genetic condition to your children? 

If you receive results that you or your partner are a carrier for a condition, that might not automatically mean that your child will now have that condition. Ask questions so that you can better understand your results before you receive them.

6. What do the results mean? 

“Genetic Abnormalities account for upwards of 70% of miscarriages. This means that the genetic wiring of the embryo was not sustainable. It’s a very primal example of survival of the fittest. Embryos that have strong genetics will be more likely to survive and become a viable pregnancy. Some genetic abnormalities will be compatible with lifelike Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) and some will not,” says Doula and FamilyEducation’s Infant Development Expert HeHe Stewart

Does being a genetic carrier mean that your child will definitely have a disorder? Do genetic disorders all develop the same? Can your baby survive? There are so many questions that can come up after screenings are performed. Knowing how to interpret the results will help you move forward once the results are received.

7. If there is an abnormal result, what are my next steps?  

Even if you're not predisposed to carrying genetic disorders, knowing how to handle a positive screening before it happens can help you be prepared for the news. Having a plan in place for the next steps will ease your mind and qual the ebb of panic that can easily overtake.

8. Will insurance cover testing? 

An important factor to know before you commit to what could be expensive testing.  

Overall prenatal genetic testing is fairly quick and non-invasive these days. It is a great way to get a handle on your health and the health of your future child. Use your doctor as a resource and know that no question is too small. Understanding the ins and outs and how to best advocate for yourself and your child is the first step towards becoming a great parent!

Decided to take the plunge on genetic screening tests? Here’s how to prepare for a prenatal genetic counseling session.