The Ultimate Guide to Prenatal Screening

Moms all want to have a healthy and lively baby, so it’s important to take preventive measures. Doing prenatal screening is what makes a responsible mom who can give birth to an excellent baby.

Prenatal screening includes screening for Down syndrome and serum screening, and you can check the cost before deciding which screening tests to do. Serum screening can screen for major fetal abnormalities such as neural tube defects and chromosomal abnormalities, and it’s generally recommended to do it.

What Is Prenatal Screening?

Prenatal screening refers to a series of medical and care recommendations and measures for pregnant women. The purpose of this screening is to monitor pregnant women and fetuses, prevent and detect complications early, and reduce the serious impact of these diseases.

After screening, correct testing methods and medical advice will be provided to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. It’s a very important screening test before childbirth and has great significance for maternal and infant health.

Prenatal screening is one of the important means to prevent birth defects in newborns. It can predict the risk of congenital defects that may occur in fetuses during pregnancy, and combined with prenatal diagnosis, it can prevent the birth of congenital defects to the greatest extent possible. Expectant parents should cooperate with prenatal screening.

What Are the Prenatal Screening Tests?

Prenatal screening mainly selects three types of congenital defects with a relatively high incidence rate, including Down syndrome (also known as Trisomy 21), Trisomy 18, and open neural tube defects.

The above three congenital defect diseases have a relatively high incidence rate. Although neural tube defects and Down syndrome are genetic diseases, they are also greatly affected by environmental factors and have a certain degree of randomness.

It’s difficult to exclude the possibility of their occurrence based on family history and pregnancy history. Therefore, all pregnant women who are able to should participate in prenatal screening.

It should be noted that prenatal screening is a prediction method, not a diagnosis. However, if the screening result is high-risk, timely measures should be taken.

What Is Included in Prenatal Screening?

Prenatal screening typically includes a combination of blood tests and ultrasound exams to assess the health of the developing fetus and identify any potential risks to the pregnancy. The specific tests may vary depending on factors such as the mother’s age, medical history, and family history, as well as local guidelines and available resources. However, common components of prenatal screening may include:

First-trimester screening

This usually involves a combination of blood tests and ultrasound exams performed between 9 and 13 weeks of pregnancy to assess the risk of chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, as well as other conditions like neural tube defects.

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Second-trimester screening

This often includes another round of blood tests performed between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy to further assess the risk of chromosomal abnormalities and other conditions, as well as an ultrasound exam to evaluate fetal anatomy and growth.

Carrier screening

This may be recommended for certain couples who are at increased risk of passing on genetic disorders to their offspring, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease.

Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT)

This is a newer type of blood test that can be performed as early as 10 weeks of pregnancy to screen for chromosomal abnormalities with a high degree of accuracy, without the need for invasive procedures like amniocentesis.

It’s important to remember that prenatal screening is not a definitive diagnosis and can only assess the likelihood of certain conditions. If a screening test suggests a higher risk of a particular condition, further diagnostic testing may be recommended to confirm or rule out the condition.

The Best Time for Prenatal Screening

Prenatal screening is very important for families who are about to welcome a new baby. But when is the best time to do prenatal screening?

The best time for prenatal screening is between 9 weeks and 13 weeks plus 6 days (with the optimal time being 10-12 weeks) during the first trimester, and between 15 weeks and 20 weeks plus 6 days (with the optimal time being 16-19 weeks) during the second trimester.

In contrast to Chinese women who often wait until they are pregnant to go for a checkup, many women in western countries visit hospitals for physical examinations and consultations before planning to conceive. These steps are necessary for giving birth to a healthy baby.

However, if serious or unsolvable problems are found in the fetus, sometimes it may be best to learn to let go, even if it means considering the option of terminating the pregnancy. We should always strive for optimal prenatal care.

The Cost of Prenatal Screening

The cost of prenatal screening can vary depending on the type of tests being done, the location where the tests are being performed, and whether the tests are covered by insurance. Generally, prenatal screening can be quite expensive, especially if multiple tests are being done. Some insurance plans may cover the cost of prenatal screening, but others may not. It is important to check with your insurance provider to see what is covered under your plan.

For those without insurance coverage, there may be financial assistance available through programs such as Medicaid or through the healthcare provider offering the screening tests. It is important to discuss the cost and payment options with your healthcare provider before undergoing any prenatal screening.

Prenatal screening is necessary for expectant mothers during pregnancy. However, the cost of prenatal screening varies from region to region due to differences in economic and medical development. According to feedback from some expectant mothers, the cost of prenatal screening in China is generally around 200 yuan, but some have reported paying over 1,000 yuan. There are differences in prices, so it is recommended to inquire at local hospitals.

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Since the mechanism of congenital defects is not yet clear and often involves multiple factors, most congenital defects lack effective treatment both in the womb and after birth. Doctors also point out that giving birth to a child with defects cannot necessarily provide them with a happy life. Congenital defects often bring lifelong pain or even death to children.

Therefore, it is more wise to seek prenatal consultation and have a risk analysis and evaluation from a specialist in advance of planning to conceive, in order to prevent the birth of children with congenital defects as much as possible. Experts recommend that women over 35 years old are at higher risk of having malformed infants and should seek prenatal consultation before planning to conceive.

Prenatal Screening Methods

How to Read Prenatal Screening Report

If you’re confused about how to read your prenatal screening report, don’t worry – you’re not alone! Here’s some information about the different components of the report:


This is a type of protein that is specific to the fetus and can help prevent rejection by the mother’s body. The normal range for AFP is ≤25 μg/L, with values over 25 μg/L considered positive.

Free HCG

This hormone is produced by the placenta and can be used to detect early pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, and incomplete miscarriage. In cases of Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18), and Patau syndrome (trisomy 13), the levels of HCG may be higher than normal.

Trisomy 21, 18, and 13

Normally, humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, but in cases of trisomy, there is an extra chromosome in the 21st, 18th, or 13th pair. Trisomy 21 is commonly known as Down syndrome.

Wrapping Up

Prenatal screening is an important step in ensuring the health of both mother and baby. It involves various tests and assessments during pregnancy to detect any potential issues that may affect the development of the fetus. The timing of the screening is crucial, with the optimal time for testing being between 10-12 weeks in the first trimester and 16-19 weeks in the second trimester. The most commonly used screening tests include the AFP, Free HCG, and 21/18/13 trisomy tests. Understanding the results of these tests can be overwhelming, but it is essential for expectant parents to consult with their healthcare providers to ensure they are informed and make the best decisions for their pregnancy. Prenatal screening allows parents to prepare for any potential challenges and take steps to ensure the best possible outcome for their baby.

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When Is Prenatal Screening Recommended?

This test happens in the second trimester, usually at 15 to 20 weeks. Cell-free fetal DNA testing. Doctors use this test to find your baby’s DNA in your blood and check it for Down syndrome and two other genetic conditions, trisomy 18 and trisomy 13. You can have this done after 10 weeks of your pregnancy.

What Is the Difference Between Prenatal Screening and Prenatal Testing?

Prenatal testing involves both screening tests and diagnostic tests. Screening tests are not diagnostic. They can provide information regarding the risk of a baby having a certain disorder or condition. Only diagnostic tests are definitive and can identify if a baby does have a birth defect.

What Tests Are Done at 12 Weeks Pregnant?

You will be offered a screening test for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome between 10 and 14 weeks of pregnancy. This is to assess your chances of having a baby with one of these conditions. Down’s syndrome is also called trisomy 21 or T21.

What Are the 3 Common Prenatal Tests?

The following screening methods are available during pregnancy: Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test or multiple marker test. Amniocentesis. Chorionic villus sampling.

Why Should I Do Prenatal Screening?

Prenatal screening is an important part of prenatal care that can help detect any potential health issues or abnormalities in your developing baby. The information obtained from prenatal screening can help you and your healthcare provider make informed decisions about your pregnancy, including any necessary medical interventions or treatments. Early detection of certain conditions can also allow for earlier preparation and planning for your baby’s care, if needed. Overall, prenatal screening can provide peace of mind and help ensure the health and well-being of both you and your baby.

Is Prenatal Screening Necessary?

Prenatal screening is not mandatory, but it is highly recommended by healthcare professionals. Prenatal screening tests can help identify potential risks to the health of the mother and baby during pregnancy. Early identification of these risks can allow for appropriate medical interventions, which may improve the outcome for both the mother and baby. It is important to discuss the benefits and limitations of prenatal screening with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision about whether or not to undergo testing.

*Tips: The medical information mentioned in this article is for reading reference only. If you experience any discomfort, we recommend seeking medical attention immediately.


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