Pap Test May Reveal Genetic Disorders Earlier
According to a small study, a simple pap smear performed as early as five weeks into pregnancy could help detect genetic disorders in the developing fetus. Current methods of genetic testing are more invasive, carry some risks, and must be performed later in pregnancy—usually between the 9th and 12th weeks.
The Pap test involves taking a small scraping of cells from the cervix for examination. Study participants were healthy women between five and 19 weeks pregnant. Cells—including cells from the placenta, which contain DNA from the fetus—were extracted from the cervix and examined. Researchers were able to use this small sampling of cells to identify and analyze details of the fetus' genetic profile.
There were no adverse effects associated with the procedure. Genetic testing currently involves a direct sampling of the placenta or the amniotic fluid and these tests carry a small risk of complications, including loss of the fetus. More research is needed, but safer genetic testing that can be performed earlier in pregnancy could lead to better outcomes for children with genetic disorders.
Image Credit: Thinkstock