Essay on Methods and Effects of Prenatal Genetic Testing

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Methods and Effects of Prenatal Genetic Testing

I. Introduction

Prenatal genetic testing has become one of the largest and most influencial advances in clinical genetics today. "Of the over 4000 genetic traits which have been distinguished to date, more than 300 are identifiable via prenatal genetic testing" (Morris, 1993). Every year, thousands of couples are subjecting their lives to the results of prenatal tests. For some, the information may be a sigh of relief, for others a tear of terror. The psychological effects following a prenatal test can be devastating, leaving the woman with a decision which will affect the rest of her life.

For couples with previous knowledge of genetic disorders in their family and concerned
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A. Amniocentesis

Amniocentisis is the most common prenatal test performed today (Morris, 1993). While the test is not totally risk free, estimated fetal loss due to amniocentesis is less than 0.5 percent (O'Connor, 1989). This procedure involves the extraction of a small amount of fluid surrounding the developing fetus. Within this fluid are cells which contain the genetic information of the fetus. Upon analysis of this fluid, the determination of the sex as well as the location of genetic abnormality causing genes can be identified.

While the numbers sound safe and the odds of injury low, amniocentesis has one major drawback. Due to the nature of the technique, the earliest an amniocentesis can be performed is in the second trimester of the pregnancy, approximately the fifteenth week. Once the procedure has been performed, it takes any where from two to four weeks for the results of the cultured cells to be announced. Because of these delays, the anxiety of the parents increase and the options available to the "parents" can become limited.

While there are several aspects which a couple needs to think about upon receiving information of the test results, one basic principle surrounds the entire decision. What will we do with our fetus? One of the most common options for
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