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Of all types of blood tests, genetic tests are some of the most controversial. While genetic testing starts with a simple blood draw, it can be used to learn a myriad of things about you. By examining your genes, experts can sometimes pinpoint the likelihood that you'll contract certain diseases. They also learn about your ancestry. Since we all get copies of genes, one from our mother and one from our father, we carry our history around with us.
Besides screening for certain diseases, genetic testing is commonly used in prenatal testing. This type of testing is used to examine a baby's chromosomes before it's born, and if a genetic abnormality is present, will often detect it. While genetic testing is unable to find all birth defects, it can provide a great deal of information for couples who opt to have it done.
Genetic testing is also used once babies are born. Babies in the United States are routinely tested for conditions that can cause problems if left untreated. They're also screened for genetic disorders that can be improved with early treatment.
These types of blood tests can also identify genetic mutations. The test searches for a gene mutation that could cause a genetic disorder, but hasn't yet. A person with this mutation would be called a carrier. Useful to families who have a history of genetic disorders, this test is often used by couples to determine their risk of passing on a genetic mutation to their children.
Because genetic testing can be complicated and sometimes difficult to cope with, many facilities offer genetic counseling with the testing.