Tina Babineau Sturk, MSc, CCGC
Genetic Counsellor of Genetics & Genomics at LifeLabs
Did you know that as early as 9 weeks into your pregnancy, there are a number of genetic factors you can find out about your baby?
For many mothers-to-be, learning more about their pregnancy can provide reassurance and peace of mind.
The human body is made up of millions of cells, and in the middle of each cell is a nucleus that contains all of our genetic information. That genetic information gets packed into structures called chromosomes. A typical human body is made up of 46 chromosomes – 23 each from your birth mom and dad – that are arranged in pairs.
“Chromosomes are important because they contain instructions for the human body to work properly,” explains Tina Babineau Sturk, MSc, CCGC, Genetic Counsellor of Genetics & Genomics at LifeLabs. “But sometimes in the fertilization process, the egg or sperm can be missing a chromosome, or can have an extra chromosome.”
These extra or missing chromosomes (called aneuploidy) can result in certain conditions like Trisomy 21, Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 13, which can have various impacts on our growth and development. For example, having three copies of chromosome 21 results in Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome, which causes a wide range of physical and mental developmental delays in children.
“Many parents want to learn about the possibility of genetic differences in order to better prepare for their pregnancy and for the care of their baby once they’re born,” says Babineau Sturk.
How likely is it that my baby has a genetic condition?
For the most part, these genetic conditions happen completely by chance. Not all chromosomal conditions are linked to maternal age. Some happen completely by chance, even in younger women without a family history.
“They’re not typically inherited, and aneuploidies increase in frequency with moms age,” explains Babineau Sturk. “As women get older, there is a higher chance of having a child with a chromosome difference.” However, even though the risk is higher in older moms, aneuploidies occur at all ages.
Screening for chromosome differences has been around for a long time. Until recently, this was based on looking at certain hormones and proteins that are present in mom’s blood because of pregnancy. These are at a different level in the blood if she had a pregnancy that had an anomaly vs. not. With non-invasive screening tests available, like Panorama™, we can now tell through a simple blood draw which pregnancies are at higher risk, making NIPT a safe option for all pregnant women.
Panorama™ is there every step of the way
Luckily, these conditions can be screened as early as 9 weeks of pregnancy. Panorama™ by LifeLabs screens for common genetic conditions. The basic blood panel detects the likelihood of having a baby with Down syndrome with an accuracy of 99%, as well as Edwards syndrome (Trisomy 18), or Patau syndrome (Trisomy 13).
Unlike invasive procedures like CVS and amniocentesis, Panorama™ carries no risk of miscarriage. The test can also tell you the sex of your baby (if you want) and if you’re having twins, it can tell you if your twins are identical or fraternal.
“During such uncertain times (COVID-19) it was such a relief to just have some more guaranteed answers to plan out the health of our unborn baby. Very happy we did the test regardless of the cost.” – Chelsea, a Panorama™ client
The best part is that you can get results in just 7-10 days from when you do the test. “The test really helps moms appreciate their pregnancy and put aside some of their worries,” adds Babineau Sturk.