Baby Gender Mentor from Acu-Gen BioLab
"Is Acu-Gen for real?" has been the question in almost every pregnancy forum since the Baby Gender Mentor was featured on the Today Show 111 months ago. The test claims to reveal your unborn baby's gender with nearly perfect accuracy at just 5 weeks gestation, using a few drops of the mother's blood. If you want to "know before you show," should you try the Baby Gender Mentor?
Maureen's advice: Do not buy the Baby Gender Mentor! I know you really want to find out your baby's gender, and I know "DNA doesn't lie" sounds convincing, BUT:
Baby Gender Mentor: The Straight Truth
The good points:
- The science behind the test seems to valid. There really is fetal DNA in the mother's blood, and published clinical studies have proven gender can be detected from a few drops of maternal blood.
The not-so-good points:
How do the tests work?
Blood Sample Collection
Prick your finger and collect three drops of blood on the special test paper, and send the sample to Acu-Gen in the provided envelope.
Because cells shed by a growing baby cross the placenta into the mother's blood, your blood drops may contain fragments of your baby's DNA. It is not possible to tell which pieces of DNA belong to you, and which pieces belong to your baby. So how can the baby's gender be determined?
The sample is analyzed to see if it contains segments of DNA from the Y chromosome. Only males have a Y chromosome, so any male DNA detected cannot possibly belong to the mother -- it could only come from her male fetus.
Acu-Gen promises that your results are available in 1 or 2 days after receiving your sample, and can be viewed on their Web site using a code printed on your test.
It's important to understand that the nature of the test does NOT indicate "Boy" or "Girl", but simply, "male DNA detected or not".
- Positive result (male DNA detected) -- Means that you are carrying at least one male baby. You could also be having twin boys, or boy/girl twins.
- Negative result (no male DNA detected) -- Means that you are not pregnant with a boy, so a girl pregnancy is assumed. It could also mean that none of the baby's DNA was in the blood droplets you collected, or that the DNA was there but not detected.
Determing a baby's gender from the mother's blood
- Is there fetal DNA in maternal blood?
Yes, without doubt. Several reputable medical studies have confirmed that starting very early in pregnancy, cells shed from a growing baby cross the placenta into the mother's blood. I have personally corresponded with the authors of these articles/studies while investigating this topic:
- Is it possible to detect fetal DNA from a few dried drops of the mother's blood?
- Yes, it seems so.
- The blood drops are collected on special paper, called FTA paper, that is commonly used by medical labs and crime labs to preserve DNA samples for years.
The technique for analyzing DNA is called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and is a common and inexpensive method used for many tasks, including detection of hereditary diseases, genetic fingerprinting, and paternity testing.
- Can fetal DNA be detected as early as 5 weeks gestation?
No published medical study has confirmed the presence of fetal DNA at this stage in pregnancy. The most recent published studies have found fetal DNA in the mother's blood only as early 6 weeks to 10 weeks gestation. Note that the baby's placenta does not form until 10 weeks gestation.
- Is a 99.9% accuracy rate possible?
No published medical study has shown a gender detection accuracy rate this high. Studies have also shown that accuracy may vary depending on week of pregnancy.
It was once thought that a false positive (male DNA detected) might result if the mother had previously had a male pregnancy, because fetal DNA might still remain in her blood; but it has since been confirmed that all fetal DNA is cleared from the mother's bloodstream within hours after birth. So previously giving birth to a boy, or miscarrying a boy, should not affect the test outcome.
However, in one recent medical study on using fetal DNA to determine gender, a mother was found to have much higher than the usual amount of male DNA in her blood, yet gave birth to a baby girl. The explanation was a vanishing twin -- a male twin who perished. The high level of male DNA was due to the fetus' cells being broken down and reabsorbed by the mother's body. How common might this situation be? No one knows for sure how often a "vanishing twin" may occur; some studies found more than 20% of detected multiple pregnancies had a vanishing twin; and in nearly 50% of IVF multiple pregnancies (which are more closely monitored). But many normal singleton pregnancies may have started out as an undetected twin pregnancy; one vanishing twin expert believes as many as 1 in 8 pregnancies may have started as a multiple pregnancy.
Finally, remember that the test is only designed to detect male DNA. It cannot detect if you are pregnant with multiple boys, boy/girl multiples. If the test is negative, it cannot determine whether any fetal DNA was even found at all.
- If there is fetal DNA in maternal blood, why isn't a blood test used for fetal diagnostic testing instead of CVS or amnio?
For gender determination, only fragments of the baby's DNA are needed to search for a match with known male DNA sequences.
However, detecting genetic or chromosomal abnormalities (such as Down's Syndrome) that are typically done with CVS or amnio requires the baby's complete genome from an intact fetal cell.
For over a decade, researchers have been attempting to find a practical method to isolate fetal cells from maternal blood, which would allow a simple blood test for prenatal diagnostics to replace invasive tests like amniocentesis or CVS (both of which carry the risk of infection and miscarriage).
To date, such efforts have not panned out because intact fetal cells are extremely rare in maternal blood. Researchers believe there is only one fetal cell per 1mL or even up to 10mL of the mother's blood, probably because most are destroyed by the mother's own white cells. Research in this area continues, both in isolating fetal cells in maternal blood, and making use of free-floating fetal DNA in maternal blood.