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The Scientific Method: Prenatal genetic tests are popular, but the results can be misleading

In this photo illustration, a pregnant woman is seen standing at an office desk in London, England.
In this photo illustration, a pregnant woman is seen standing at an office desk in London, England.

More than a third of expectant parents use a noninvasive blood test to screen their babies for potential genetic disorders.

These tests, known as NIPS, can be accurate when it comes to determining the sex of the baby, or for detecting Down syndrome. But when it comes to other more rare genetic disorders, the FDA says the tests can be misleading.

This spring, the agency warned that the tests, which are part of a booming industry, are not regulated.

Many parents say instead of providing information, false-positive results led to unnecessary anxiety about the health of their baby and sky-high medical bills.

We speak with a doctor trained in high-risk pregnancies, a bioethicist, and a parent about some of the benefits and pitfalls of prenatal screenings.

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