Researchers say gene testing in early pregnancy reveals far more about potential health risks than current prenatal testing.
A study published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine finds a surprisingly high number -- 6 percent -- of certain fetuses declared normal by conventional testing were found to have genetic abnormalities by gene scans. The gene flaws can cause anything from minor defects such as a club foot to more serious ones such as mental retardation, heart problems and fatal diseases.
The lead researcher says the testing "isn't done just so people can terminate pregnancies." Dr. Ronald Wapner of Columbia University Medical Center in New York says such tests allow doctors to provide women more information about what's causing the problem, what the prognosis is and what special care their child might need.
A second study in the journal found that gene testing could reveal the cause of most stillbirths, many of which remain a mystery now. That could give couples agonizing over whether to try again more information to make a decision.