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Blood test can predict fetus’ sex at seven weeks

by nickj on August 10, 2011

Many soon-to-be parents often wonder what the sex of their unborn child is, and new research suggests they can find out sooner than ever. Time magazine reports that scientists believe a blood test may be able to tell parents if they should expect a son or daughter by as early as seven weeks.

The research was presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which compiled 57 studies of the blood test. What it found was that results were about 98 percent accurate when predicting the fetus is a boy, and about 94 percent for a girl. The test in question works by scanning a mother's blood for fetal DNA, which is then analyzed to see if it has Y chromosomes.

The test could be especially important for families who are concerned about genetic diseases linked to gender. The normal route to predict the gender, ultrasound, is typically not scheduled until the second trimester, while other earlier tests run the risk of a miscarriage.

Still, there are dangers to such a test. The practice could lead to parents ending a pregnancy due to one preference or another, and a wrong prediction could lead to an unnecessary termination due to fears of genetic diseases.

"In an ideal world, if there's a serious or life-threatening genetic problem with the fetus, I understand people will want to end this pregnancy and try again," Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, told the publication. "But when you're talking about picking a baby's sex, doctors shouldn't offer the test, companies shouldn't offer it, and we should tell people that's not a good reason to have an abortion."

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