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Should I get prenatal genetic screening? The most common questions, answered.

Here are some of the common questions people have about genetic screening in pregnancy, to help you understand what genetic screening is, the risks, accuracy and types of tests to choose from.

Woman reviewing ultrasound

Many people are surprised to learn how many decisions need to be made throughout pregnancy. Where do I want to receive my prenatal care? What lifestyle changes am I going to make to stay as healthy as possible?

Another big decision that needs to be made is about genetic screening during pregnancy—there are so many options, and it can feel overwhelming. But take heart, mama. We promise you'll figure it out. Especially because you don't have to do it alone.

It's important to know that genetic screening is optional during pregnancy. Whatever feels right for you and your baby is usually best. New information on genetics comes out all the time. If you are thinking about having prenatal genetic screening or testing, talk to your provider first for the most up-to-date information and specific guidance based on your personal story.

Here are some of the common questions people have about genetic screening in pregnancy, to help you understand what genetic screening is, the risks, accuracy and types of tests to choose from.

What is genetic screening?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), "prenatal genetic screening gives parents-to-be' information about whether their fetus has a certain genetic disorder."

Screenings are not diagnostic. This means that the results are not definitive ("The baby does or does not have Down syndrome,") but rather a prediction of chance ("There is a higher or lower than normal chance that the baby could have Down syndrome.")

If tests come back indicating that there is a high chance of abnormality, your provider may recommend diagnostic testing which can give a definitive yes or no result (more on that soon).

What kinds of genetic testing are available?

There are two main types of prenatal genetic testing: prenatal screening test and prenatal diagnostics test.

Prenatal screening tests:

Prenatal genetic screening tests can identify whether your baby is more or less likely to have certain birth defects, most stemming from genetic disorders. These are not definitive tests, they just tell you the chances. If results indicate an increased risk, your provider may talk to you about doing a diagnostic test.

Here are some common prenatal genetic screening tests:

Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT), also called cell-free fetal DNA testing. This can be done between weeks 10 and 20. It assesses the chances of chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Patau syndrome (trisomy 13), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18) and certain single-gene disorders associated with abnormalities of the skeleton, bones or heart. This test can also determine the sex of your baby if you'd like to know. The results take about a week to come in.

First-trimester combined screening. This is an optional test that is offered between weeks 11 and 14. The test involves taking a blood sample from you along with doing an ultrasound that looks at certain aspects of the baby's development. Specifically, the ultrasound looks at the clear space in the tissue at the back of the baby's neck—the size of this space, along with the information provided by the blood test, can help identify a higher chance for Down syndrome.

Second Trimester screening. Similar to the first trimester screening, your provider will take a blood test called a quad screen. This will measure four substances in your blood which indicate the chance of carrying a baby with chromosomal defects like Down syndrome, as well as neural tube defects.

Here are some common prenatal diagnostic tests:

Your provider may recommend a diagnostic test if your screening indicates an elevated chance of abnormality, or if other factors like family and medical history warrant it. These are more invasive and the only way to be sure of a diagnosis.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS). CVS tests for certain disorders and chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus by looking at the chorionic villi, which are wisps of placental tissue that contain your baby's DNA. It can be done as early as 10 weeks. Placental tissue is extracted from your uterus by a catheter inserted into your cervix or by needle into the abdomen. The tissue will be genetically analyzed for certain disorders.

The procedure carries a small (0.35%) risk of miscarriage. It may sting and induce some cramping, but after a day of rest, you are cleared to resume normal activity. The benefit of CVS is that it can be done earlier in the pregnancy than an amniocentesis.

Amniocentesis. An amniocentesis (often called an amnio) is a procedure to sample the fluid that surrounds the baby. This amniotic fluid contains your baby's DNA, so it can be used to test for genetic disorders. It is usually performed between weeks 15 and 20 and does carry some risks, so it is important to be informed about them. According to the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, amniocentesis is associated with a miscarriage rate of 1 in 300 to 500.

How accurate are the results of prenatal genetic testing?

With most tests, there is a potential for false-positive results (when a positive test is wrong) and false-negative results (when a negative test is wrong). We recommend reaching out to your provider, they can give you more information on the rates of false-positive and false-negative test results and compare other options.

What are the risks of prenatal genetic screening?

The risk associated with genetic testing can depend on the test you get. For the prenatal screening tests, the risks are limited due to its less invasive process (blood test and ultrasound). Many of the risks associated with genetic testing involve emotional, social and financial consequences of the test results. These are just as important to keep in mind (more on these in a bit).

For diagnostic screening, there is a small but real risk of miscarriage due to it being a more invasive procedure. This is because they need a sample of amniotic fluid or tissue from the fetus.

What questions should I ask my provider before genetic testing?

If you are trying to decide if you'd like to have genetic screening or testing, here are some questions to ask your provider:

  • What is the screening or test looking for?
  • What information are we hoping to gather from this screening test?
  • How will it be done (blood draw, ultrasound and so on)?
  • What are the risks?
  • What is the cost, and is it covered by my insurance? (You may need to call your insurance company for the answer to this one.)
  • How will the results of this test impact me, my pregnancy or my baby?
  • Do you recommend this test for me?

There are also genetic specialists who may have even more information about the prenatal genetic testing than your provider does. Do not hesitate to request an appointment with a genetic specialist to discuss any of your questions further.

Should I get genetic screening during my pregnancy?

Mama, trust yourself. People are going to have all kinds of advice regarding genetic screenings—and it's okay to listen if you want to. But ultimately, you have to make the best decision for you. This is a great time to tune out the noise, get evidence-based and personalized information from your provider, and then listen to your gut. There is no right answer here, so doing what feels right is totally appropriate.

Some women choose to have all the available tests done, while others decline all of them. The majority of women probably fall somewhere in the middle.

Mama, it's all okay.

Here's a way to make the decision: Think about what you are going to do with the information you receive. Consider this:

If the test comes back saying your baby has a very low chance of having a chromosomal abnormality, will that help you to feel more relaxed during your pregnancy? Or would you rather not think about this knowledge one way or the other?

If the test comes back saying that your baby has a high chance of having a chromosomal abnormality, will you then choose to have an amniocentesis to get more reliable information?

If you do choose an amniocentesis, and it reveals that your baby does indeed have a chromosomal abnormality, does that impact your decision-making moving forward? Will you, for example, appreciate knowing this information so you can begin to make special plans for caring for the baby? Will you choose to terminate the pregnancy? If the answer to both of those questions is no, perhaps you may not want to have the testing at all.

Again, it's complicated. But just like with all of pregnancy and parenting, there is no one right way to do things. The world is full of ideas and judgment, but in these moments, focus on your needs and desires and your provider's guidance.

A portion of this article has been excerpted from The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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20 baby names that mean miracle—and will never go out of style

In these extraordinary times, we could all use some small miracles.

Meaningful baby names will never go out of style. Whether you decide to name your newborn after a beloved family member, or are simply searching for a name that reflects the journey that led you to parenthood, whatever you choose will stick with you for the rest of your—and your child's—life.

Almost every parent, at some point, refers to their child as a "miracle," though the meaning of the word itself might differ depending on who you're talking to. Miracle is a beautiful word that can double as a name, but there are many other thoughtful baby names to choose from if you're considering giving your baby a name that suggests an extraordinary event, a gift from above or a rare wonder.

Whether you're looking for a familiar name with a miraculous history, such as Aaron, or you're searching for a unique name that means "rare miracle," such as Ender, there are so many choices for both girls and boys that are equally as meaningful as they are interesting. Choosing a baby name with the special meaning of "miracle" is a signal of hope and optimism—and in these extraordinary times, we could all use some small miracles.

Putting a unique twist on a beautiful classic isn't hard with these baby names that mean "miracle."

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