Study Reveals Gender Of Fetus In Seven Weeks, But Controversy Lingers

Written by Michael Lambarde on Aug. 10, 2011

According to a new study, a simple blood test will be able to determine a baby’s sex just seven weeks into the pregnancy. The study shows that fragments of the baby’s DNA in a mother’s blood sample will show whether the mother is having a boy or girl, and the study is 95% – 99% accurate.

The tests were shown to be accurate the most after seven weeks into pregnancy when there was enough cell-free DNA in the blood of the mother, and the best results were found after 20 weeks of gestation. The study showed that blood tests before seven weeks were not reliable. Neither were urine tests.

However, while the results of the study are encouraging, controversy surrounds the new research because based on the gender of the child, mothers and/or their partners could decide to not have the child based on the gender.

“Ending a pregnancy because you don’t want a girl may be legal in the U.S., but that does not make it an ethical choice,” Dr. Artur Caplan, Ph.D, said about the results of the study on Tuesday. “As hard as it may be for some people to comprehend, there can be good and bad reasons to end a pregnancy. Gender preference is a bad reason,” he said.

He referred to study results as “troubling technology” instead of being helpful.

However, the tests will help families who worry about having a child with rare genetic disorders that mostly affect boys, if they already have another boy that has the disorder, for example. However, Joseph Biggio, director of the Trimester Genetics Screening Clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham notes that fewer than 1% of couples are at high risk of producing rare disorders.

Doctors also note that it could be one day useful and a less invasive alternative to amniocentesis, which is where a small sample of amniotic fluid is drawn out of the uterus through a needle that is inserted in the abdomen. Amniocentesis is done to detect abnormalities and/or to determine the gender of the fetus.

The study was published in Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association and carried out by researchers from the National Institutes of Health.