New, Earlier Test to Determine Baby's Gender Could Save Lives

it's a boy pregnant bellyIf you could find out the gender of your baby while you were still in your first trimester, would you? Apparently, you can: A recent study found that a certain type of prenatal blood test is highly accurate at determining fetal sex as early as seven weeks into the pregnancy. That's weeks before other, riskier tests, like ultrasounds and amniocentesis, can make the distinction between boy or girl.

I think this is great news, despite concerns that the availability of this test will lead to an uptick in the practice of prenatal sex selection -- which, for the record, I DO NOT SUPPORT or approve of in any way, shape, or form.

The reason why I think this is a positive development is because finding out the gender of your baby early could be the key to good prenatal care ...

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That's particularly true in the cases of parents whose offspring are at risk for rare, gender-related disorders such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (which only affects boys). If a doctor discovered during the first trimester that the baby in question was a girl, and therefore incapable of developing the disorder, that would cut out the need for further (more costly, more invasive) genetic testing.

Even for parents who aren't concerned with the possibility of gender-related disorders but just want to know what they're having, this test is a safer option than an ultrasound or amnio. With amniocentesis comes a small but real risk of miscarriage; ultrasounds, meanwhile, have been criticized for their potential to cause brain damage by making amniotic fluid too hot.

Going back to the fear that parents will use this test as a means of prenatal sex selection (finding out if they're having a boy or a girl when it's still early enough to get an abortion), well, I'm not entirely sure what can be done to prevent that from happening (some of the companies that manufacture the blood test require patients to sign a waiver that they won't use the test for this purpose). But I am fairly certain that a medical advancement with the potential to save lives shouldn't be shelved just because some people will distort its purpose to suit their own needs.

Would you take a blood test that showed the sex of your baby as early as seven weeks into your pregnancy?

 

Image via Meagan/Flickr

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