A study published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that a simple blood test—using maternal blood, not fetal blood drawn through an amniocentesis or other invasive procedure—can determine with 95 percent accuracy the sex of a fetus at 7 weeks of gestation. Other methods, the most common being ultrasound, are not considered reliable until around the 20-week mark.
The blood tests are performed at home by the pregnant woman, who simply pricks her finger and collects a drop of blood. She then sends the sample to a lab where it is analyzed for the chromosomal markers that determine whether the woman is carrying a boy or a girl.
The tests have been available online at sites like this for years, but this new study is the first to confirm the tests' accuracy rate and examine their potential for prenatal care—both positive and negative. On one hand, the tests can allow parents to screen for sex-linked genetic diseases. On the other hand, the test could be used to take what The New York Times calls "the more ethically controversial step of selecting the sex of their children."
Giving some women pause is the fact that the tests are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration because they are not used for medical purposes, The New York Times reported. Also, the tests are expensive, costing upwards of $250 for lab fees and other processing.
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