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Many of the four million U.S. women who have babies every year have one or more of these three tests. No one method of testing is best suited for all women who want it. Nor is prenatal testing welcomed by all women. However, most women appreciate prenatal testing, and many governments, along with most doctors, encourage its use.
In California, for example, where one-ninth of the U.S. population resides, all prenatal care providers are required to give information about the triple marker test to pregnant women who are less than 20 weeks pregnant, although these women are not required to have the screening. In most developed countries prenatal testing is standard for certain age groups.
From the beginning of prenatal testing use in the 1970s, there's been concern that it would result in the abortions of children of an unwanted gender. Since prenatal tests do not have to be reported, no one knows for sure how many are performed, or for what reasons. In one prenatal testing study of more than 3,000 U.S. women, however, it was suspected, but not proven, that less than one percent of fetuses were aborted based on sex selection.
Prenatal tests can be very reassuring if the news is good. If the news is not, many parents appreciate having time to prepare for the birth of a baby with a known defect, or alternatively, to terminate pregnancy.
The disadvantages of prenatal testing are the anxiety while you wait for results, the less-than-100-percent reliability of any of the tests, and the potential risks to the fetus.