Quick Facts about DNA tests while pregnant
- It is safe to do DNA testing during pregnancy, but what kind of sample you provide is important for the accuracy of your results?
- When pregnant, a mother’s blood can carry small amounts of genetic material from the fetus which could compromise a blood-based DNA test.
- A simple, non-invasive way to avoid contamination is with the cheek-swab method.
- Nebula provides the most complete genetic sequencing using cheek-swab samples, making it a great DNA test while pregnant.
- By choosing Whole Genome Sequencing and decoding 100% of your DNA you will learn what you may inherit to your children.
There are many reasons to take a DNA test. You may want to learn about your ancestry and family history. Or perhaps you are hoping to determine your genetic predisposition to certain illnesses. And as research progresses into understanding the genome, more and more resources are becoming available for consumers to upload their data and learn about their own genetics, including Nebula’s Genome Exploration Tools. However, not all genetic testing services are created equal. If you are pregnant, you should be especially careful in choosing a DNA test.
While there is plenty of information available about genetic testing in general, less information is available about getting tested while pregnant. In this article, we discuss whether DNA testing while pregnant is safe, what kind of testing is appropriate while pregnant, and finally compare our service to other industry-leading DNA tests. By the end of this article, you will know exactly what to look for in a DNA test while pregnant.
|30x Whole Genome Sequencing is the best DNA test to take before and during pregnancy. It decodes 100% of your DNA and enables you to learn everything that you may inherit to your children! Click here to learn more!|
Edited by Christina Swords, Ph.D.
The Science: Taking a DNA test while pregnant
Many companies provide genetic testing services, but these services are not all the same. This fact is very important when selecting a service if you are pregnant. In particular, differences in sample collection can end up compromising and invalidating the results of a DNA test.
Your DNA is your DNA… but whose DNA are you testing while pregnant?
DNA contains all of a person’s genetic information. It is found in every cell in the body and in general, there is no difference between the DNA in your blood and the DNA in your skin cells. This means that no matter what sample collection method is used (ie. cheek swab or blood sample), the results should be the same. Things, however, get more complicated when we consider a DNA sample taken from a pregnant woman’s blood sample.
In general, a person’s DNA does not change over their lifetime. It contains a unique blend of genes from both the person’s biological father and mother, which is what makes DNA paternity testing possible. However, this is exactly what limits what test can be performed on a pregnant woman.
The American Pregnancy Association explains that long before a baby is born, it has already started to produce its own unique blood. However, the mother and the fetus still share a lot. A pancake-shaped organ connected to the fetus through the umbilical cord, called the placenta, helps deliver important nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream to the fetus, and waste from the fetus bloodstream to the mother’s. Some of this waste will contain genetic material from the fetus, which is a blend of both the father’s and mother’s DNA.
Blood samples are very reliable sources for DNA tests. Unfortunately, commercial DNA sequencing companies are not able to differentiate between the pregnant woman’s DNA and the DNA from the fetus, which is why pregnant women having their DNA sequenced should avoid tests that use blood samples.
Interestingly, the fact that a fetus’ genetic material can be found in its mother’s bloodstream can be very useful. For example, it is used in non-invasive prenatal testing and screening and in determining paternity through a non-invasive prenatal paternity test. These techniques have their limitations, as things like amniocentesis or cvs (chorionic villus sampling) can only be done invasively, and typically require the amniotic fluid to be tested as well.
So, if you want to take a DNA test while pregnant, what can you do? Can you get a DNA test while pregnant? You can test DNA that doesn’t come from a blood sample.
Cheek-swab vs saliva DNA tests while pregnant
If you want to be sure your genetic results are not affected by your pregnancy, a cheek-swab is the way to go. Most swab based DNA kits allow customers to take a DNA test while pregnant at home.
A cheek-swab is as easy to take as scraping the inside of your cheek with a Q-tip. It differs from a saliva test (which involves filling a tube with your saliva) in that only a swab needs to be returned. Cheek swabs can be more reliable as saliva test kits can fail to provide results if a large enough saliva sample isn’t collected. For some customers, producing enough saliva can be difficult, especially if they are prone to dry mouth.
Additionally, saliva kits require the customer to restrict their eating and drinking leading up to the test. This fasting ensures that the sample isn’t compromised by outside sources of DNA. Failing to do so may cause the test to fail, requiring you to buy another kit. Furthermore, saliva samples are often affected by bacterial contamination.
Of course, a cheek-swab is not without its own difficulties. Customers provide a smaller volume of genetic material with a cheek-swab, so it is important that they perform the collection process properly. A properly collected cheek-swab will carry all of the cells needed to perform the DNA test (Nebula Genomics can help make sure you do it right). Just like a blood test, a cheek-swab is highly reliable when performed correctly, but with the benefit of being non-invasive and pregnancy-friendly.
Avoiding blood-based DNA tests while pregnant
A blood-based DNA test while pregnant may be compromised by the genetic material of the fetus
Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) fans might tell you that almost anything can be used for a DNA test. The truth though, is that getting a good sample with enough usable DNA is crucial for accurate testing. This is especially true if you are hoping to have your whole genome sequenced. Being pregnant while testing further affects which sequencing tests are available to you. To help you decide which service is right for you, we have compiled a list of no-blood DNA tests that you can take while pregnant, along with some of their features.
Taking a DNA test to determine paternity is different than taking an at-home DNA test. According to Healthline, postpartum paternity tests are usually the best option. However, there are some options to perform DNA tests during pregnancy. Most results are available in less than 7 business days.
- Noninvasive prenatal paternity (NIPP) takes blood from the alleged father and the mother to create a genetic profile that compares the fetal cells in the mother’s bloodstream to the alleged father’s. This tests is over 99% accurate and can be performed after the 8th week of pregnancy.
- Amniocentesis is an invasive test that takes a sample of amniotic fluid from the uterus. The DNA collected is compared with the alleged father’s. Amniocentesis carries a small risk of miscarriage. This test can be performed between weeks 14 and 20 of pregnancy.
- Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is an invasive test that samples chorionic villi, small pieces of tissue that are attached to the uterine wall. The DNA collected is compared with the alleged father’s. 1 in every 1000 CVS procedures result in a miscarriage. This test can be performed between weeks 10 and 13 of pregnancy.
|Service||23 and Me||AncestryDNA||Nebula Genomics|
|DNA testing method||Saliva||Saliva||Cheek-swab|
|Sample collection||Microarray-based genotyping||Microarray-based genotyping||Whole Genome Sequencing (30x coverage)|
|Information available||Ancestry, traits, health||Ancestry, health||Weekly reports based on the latest research, data exploration tools, deep ancestry|
|Data Access||Yes (23andMe file format)||Yes (AncestryDNA file format)||Yes (FASTQ, BAM, and VCF files)|
|Cost||$99, $199, or $499||$99 or $149||$0 – $299|
Nebula Genomics: Your whole genome and all of your data, too
Nebula Genomics does not rely on a blood sample, offers full genome sequencing, and makes it easy to access all of your own data.
Many services will provide consumers with no-blood testing, but Nebula Genomics is unique in that we offer a 30x Whole Genome Sequencing service that sequences 100% of your DNA. The other services compared above use DNA microarray technology to profile your genome, characterizing only some of your genome. For example, it is common for microarray sequencing to characterize ~ 500,000 positions, which is less than 0.1% of the whole human genome. Microarray-based genotyping may be a bit more affordable, but it misses a lot of important information. Our 30x Whole Genome Sequencing sample collection is safe for women who are pregnant, will not be compromised by the genetic material of the fetus, and can provide you with complete DNA sequencing. Our Whole Genome Sequencing data is of the highest quality and can be used by physicians and genetic counselors.
If you are interested in obtaining medical advice, you need access to your own data. Nebula makes it easy to bring your test results, including your raw data, to your physician or genetic counselors who can use our data to counsel you. We include several industry-standard file types (FASTQ, BAM, VCF) that will allow you to get the most out of your test. As always, individuals who believe they are at risk for a genetic disorder should consult a healthcare provider before taking a DNA test while pregnant.
For more information on genetic sequencing technology, check out our Intro to DNA Testing Methods and our Test for Paternity post. HomeDNA is a popular at home paternity test available at most major retailors.
If you want to focus on your maternal and/or paternal lineages, you can look at YFull or YSeq, services which analyze mtDNA or the Y chromosome to determine specific lineage haplotypes. Full Genomes also offers Y chromosome sequencing and analysis.
Other DNA testing companies that do carrier screenings for diseases that may be passed down to children include:
- Integrated Genetics (diagnostic test, cost dependent on insurance)
- Invitae (diagnostic test, $0 – $250)
- MyHeritage (diagnostic test, $199)
- Myriad (diagnostic test, $0 – $4000+)
- Veritas Genetics (diagnostic test, $599 for 30x whole genome sequencing – $3599 for advanced diagnostics)
- CircleDNA (at home test, $189 – $629)
- Helix DNA (at home test, $145)
- tellmegen (at home test, $235)
- Xcode Life (at home test, $20)