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    Boy or Girl? Fetal DNA Tests Often Spot On

    Report Confirms Effectiveness of Using Mother's Blood to Detect Unborn Baby’s Gender, Paves Way for Alternatives to Invasive Tests

    Fetal DNA Tests: The Future

    Eventually, Bianchi says, the blood tests may help detect, early in pregnancy, fetuses with certain medical conditions that affect one sex more than the other.

    For instance, she says, a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia can make girls' genitals appear masculine-like. If a pregnant woman were at risk of delivering a girl with this condition, she could be treated with steroids to prevent those effects.

    If the Y chromosome were found on the test, the woman would be spared the treatment.

    For consumers who are curious about the sex of their unborn baby, Bianchi says her research cannot vouch for the effectiveness of those tests.

    Bianchi reports serving as a member of the scientific and clinical advisory board of Verinata Health Inc., a biotech company. She also holds stock options and receives honoraria from Verinata. The company had no role in the current research. It was funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

    Fetal DNA Tests: Perspective

    The findings confirm what experts in the field have known, says Joe Leigh Simpson, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Florida International University in Miami. "Many different labs can in fact verify when a male pregnancy exists. This helps to confirm that the next steps down the path are taken on some firm ground," he says.

    He reviewed the findings for WebMD but wasn't involved in the research. He reports being on the scientific advisory board of BioDx, involved in cell-free DNA research, and RareCells.

    He agrees that the hope is to use the fetal DNA test to rule out or identify certain conditions early in the pregnancy. ''There are a certain number of conditions in which a female would not be affected [typically], hemophilia being an example," he says.

    Simpson says the issue of using the tests for ''family balancing'' is often brought up in debates about the use of the tests. For instance, a family has two boys and is hoping for a girl and decides to take a gender test.

    In his experience, the number of people who are going to terminate a pregnancy simply based on the finding that the fetus is the ''wrong'' sex is not an issue, although it is a concern voiced by some experts.

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