On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a DNA test?!

The holiday season requires you to contemplate carefully what to get that person in your life who already has everything. Gift cards are a safe bet, you think, but then you flip to a magazine holiday gift guide and see it: a DNA test.  A dozen years ago, it would have sounded absurd to think of giving someone a DNA kit as a holiday gift. But, with the growth of the direct-to-consumer DNA test market and ease at which a person can get an at-home test, this far-fetched idea is becoming more common.

Before you consider your holiday shopping complete, here are the three key points to keep in mind if you’re considering giving a DNA kit as a present:

Know your gift recipient well!

Not everyone has the same interest in DNA testing, and each at-home DNA test has its own benefits and risks. A DNA saliva kit may not be a surprise met with a universal level of enthusiasm, so make sure a DNA test is a “wanted” gift before you spring one on an unsuspecting friend or family member.

Know the ins and outs of the test you buy.

Did you know tests that tell you about your ancestry and countries of origin often also provide a DNA matching service that allows someone who tests to discover other genetic relatives? While this can be a fun addition to the test, it can also reveal unexpected relationships in a family that may not be welcome. Many people test without knowing these details or without thinking of the potential ramifications beyond the fun of it. Be ready to answer questions about the test you’re giving. You can expect to get a lot of them, from the gift recipient and everyone else in the room when the gift is opened.

Have additional resources on hand, in case the recipient wants to better understand the test.

Make sure you have a list of online sites, support groups and professional resources to hand over along with the kit itself. As mentioned, these tests can hold surprises or hard to understand information that a genetics expert can help simplify. The National Society of Genetic Counselors has a “Find a Genetic Counselor” search tool available, if your gift recipient wants to consider reaching out to a certified genetic counselor who specializes in direct-to-consumer genomic testing before they take the test, or after the results come back. Many genetic counselors are willing to go through the fine print of what a test may show with someone before they send in their DNA sample, and genetic counselors can help interpret the results that come back a few weeks or months later.

A DNA kit wrapped in paper and bows will undoubtedly stir up some conversation over the holiday dinner table. Not all DNA tests are the same, though, so make sure to do your research and arm yourself and your gift recipient with all the information you need to give the gift you intended.

Happy holidays from NSGC!

Want to learn more about at-home genetic tests? Visit these other useful links:

Brianne Kirkpatrick, MS, LCGC, is an ancestry expert for the National Society of Genetic Counselors and founder of Watershed DNA, a private practice specializing in ancestry testing and other direct-to-consumer tests. She is also an NSGC Digital Ambassador.

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