Many parents are worried about passing on less than desirable genes to their children, but until recently, there hasn’t been a way to detect illnesses and congenital defects in a way that was safe for both the mother and child. Not every hereditary disease will get passed down, but if they do, parents want to know what they’re going to have to potentially deal with. In some cases, illnesses and defects can even be cured or stopped in the womb if they’re caught early on.

What is Genome Sequencing?
Right now, the most reliable way to check for prenatal health is to check the mother’s health. This is done by testing the mother’s blood pressure, blood, and urine. New technology however, has discovered that mother’s blood is teeming with fragments of their baby’s DNA and non-invasive prenatal tests (NIPT) like drawing blood from the mother can actually reveal congenital defects and illnesses very early on.

These NIPTs can help scientists and doctors put together genetic information and entire fetal genomes that allow scientists to see various disorders and abnormalities that may eventually lead to health problems for the fetus later in life. The process of using this information to detect abnormalities is currently undergoing testing, but a handful of diagnostic companies believe that their tests will soon become the standard screening process for fetuses in just a few years.

What’s Holding the Tests Back?
Doctors and scientists believe that these tests will be widely used, but right now, the biggest thing holding people back from using the tests is money. On the cheaper end of the scale, NIPTs cost about $800 and at the most expensive they’re about $3,000, and that’s on top of what it costs to have a baby in a hospital.

Parents are reluctant to pay this extra fee, with good reason. Though some parents may think that shelling out a few grand to find out if their child is at risk is a good investment, others just don’t have the means to pay this extra fee. The technology is new, and so insurers are reluctant to pay for the tests if they may or may not be reimbursed.

"Whether or not prenatal genetic testing becomes standard, it's certainly possible, but they're going to have to get the price point down lower than it is right now," says Les Funtleyder, a health care strategist at investment firm Poliwogg. "Managed care companies aren't rushing toward new places to spend money. If the companies in question can make the case that by doing this you're somehow improving quality or cutting costs, they could become part of standard care. But if they're adding cost onto the price of pregnancy, it won't be received enthusiastically."

Dillow, C. (2013, August 12). The next big thing in pregnancy: Sequencing your baby's genome. Fortune Tech Technology blogs news and analysis from Fortune Magazine RSS.