dna-test-while-pregnant

Taking a DNA test while pregnant?

Quick Facts about DNA tests while pregnant

  1. It is safe to take a DNA test while pregnant, but what kind of sample you provide is important for the accuracy of your results.
  2. When pregnant, blood can carry small amounts of genetic material from the fetus which could compromise a blood-based DNA test.
  3. A simple, non-invasive way to avoid contamination is with the cheek-swab method.
  4. Nebula provides the most complete genetic sequencing using cheek-swab samples, making it a great DNA test while pregnant.
  5. By choosing Whole Genome Sequencing and decoding 100% of your DNA you will learn what you may inherit to your children.

Introduction

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!

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? You can test DNA that doesn’t come from a blood sample.

Cheek-swabs are one way to ensure accurate testing without using a blood sample.
Cheek-swabs are one way to ensure accurate testing without using 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. 

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

Avoiding blood-based DNA tests while pregnant.
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.

Service23 and MeAncestryDNANebula Genomics
DNA testing methodSalivaSalivaCheek-swab
Sample collectionMicroarray-based genotyping
Microarray-based genotypingWhole Genome Sequencing (30x coverage)
Information availableAncestry, traits, healthAncestry, healthWeekly reports based on the latest research, data exploration tools, deep ancestry
Data AccessYes (23andMe file format)Yes (AncestryDNA file format)Yes (FASTQ, BAM, and VCF files)
Cost$99, $199, or $499$99 or $149$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. The results are processed in CLIA/CAP-accredited laboratories, and all of your data remains secure and yours. 

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.

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