Published May 4, 2021 by Ichor Blood Services

The moment you first find out you are pregnant is very exciting. Having a baby can be a stressful, emotional, and overwhelming journey, but with the right care, all of those feelings will be gone once you see your baby for the first time.

As exciting as this process can be, there is a lot to think about during your pregnancy to ensure your baby is as healthy and happy as it can be. Some of these thoughts can be scary, especially when they relate to prenatal testing. 

No one can tell you if prenatal screening is right for you. It is a personal decision, and there is no right or wrong answer. However, your doctor or midwife may recommend getting a screening done to ensure your baby is healthy and to minimize the risks of complications during your pregnancy. 

What Are Prenatal Screening Tests?

Prenatal screening is a blanket term used to describe a variety of testing you may choose or have recommended by your doctor during your pregnancy. Screening tests show the chance if your baby is developing any genetic conditions. They offer the best view possible of you and your baby’s health and can catch many pregnancy complications early on. They provide you with information that can tell you more about your baby’s development. Think genetic disorders, infections, and your baby’s blood type. Prenatal screening tests can be life-saving.  

The results of the prenatal screening are not a diagnosis. They provide you with a likelihood that your baby has a genetic condition. For a more accurate diagnosis, you will need to get further testing done through a non-invasive prenatal test (also a screening test but with greater precision).

Types Of Prenatal Screening Tests

Screening tests help your doctor find out the chances that your baby has certain birth defects, such as Trisomy 18 or Down Syndrome. However, these tests cannot know for sure if your baby will be born with these defects—unless a diagnostic test is performed later.

Here are the differences between two of the most common prenatal screening tests:

First Trimester Prenatal Screening Test

First-trimester screening tests can begin as early as 10 weeks into your pregnancy. They usually involve a blood test and an ultrasound to determine the likelihood of your baby developing any genetic conditions such as Trisomy 18, heart abnormalities, cystic fibrosis, and other developmental concerns. A more exciting aspect that prenatal screenings can determine in the first trimester is the sex of your baby.

Fetal Nuchal Translucency Ultrasound

This test uses an ultrasound to examine the area at the back of the fetal neck for increased fluid or thickening. An increase in thickness can be an early sign of Down Syndrome.

Ultrasound For Fetal Nasal Bone

Most babies with chromosomal abnormalities will not have their nasal bone shown in an ultrasound during the gestation stage of 11-13 weeks. Determining if your baby’s nasal bone can be visualized will help doctors gain insight into whether or not your baby will be born with Down Syndrome.

Maternal Serum Blood Tests

These blood tests detect pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A and human chorionic gonadotropin. Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A is produced by the placenta during the early stages of pregnancy, and any abnormal levels found in your bloodstream can indicate a risk of stillbirth, preeclampsia, and preterm birth. High levels of human chorionic gonadotropin can indicate gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), which leads to cancerous cells developing in the uterus.

Second Trimester Prenatal Screening Test

Second-trimester prenatal screening tests include both an ultrasound and bloodwork. These blood tests are often referred to as multiple marker tests. They can further help determine the potential risks if your baby will be born with any genetic conditions or birth defects. These screenings are performed between 15-20 weeks of your pregnancy and read the levels of your estriol, inhibin, and human chorionic gonadotropin hormones.

AFP Screening

This blood test measures the amount of AFP in your bloodstream during pregnancy. AFP is a protein produced by the fetal liver present in the amniotic fluid. This protein crosses the placenta and enters into your bloodstream and can indicate:

  • Open neural tube defects
  • Down Syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities
  • Twins
  • A miscalculated due date
  • Defects in the abdominal wall of the fetus

Multiple marker screening tests are not diagnostic tests—meaning they are not 100% accurate. Further testing will be required to ascertain whether your baby will be born with any birth defects or abnormalities. 

Glucose Screening

A glucose screening checks for gestational diabetes, a condition that can develop during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes may result in your baby being born with low blood sugar levels and increases the chance of needing a cesarean section during birth. If you test positive for gestational diabetes, you will be at an increased risk of developing diabetes in the next 10 years.

Contact Us Today!

Pregnancy screening tests are an important aspect in determining the health of your baby before they are born. Results can provide a sense of relief and help you make informed decisions about your health. If any test results come back positive, you can begin looking at further treatment options, monitor your baby closely, and take any preventative measures that can aid your baby’s health. 

If you have a requisition from your doctor or midwife for Prenatal Screening and cannot find a prompt or suitable appointment through Alberta Precision Laboratories, call Ichor Blood Services at 1-844-424-6728 and book your private specimen collection appointment now.


How accurate are prenatal screening tests?

With any type of testing, there is always a possibility of false-positive or false-negative results. Screening tests are not designed to give 100% accuracy and instead determine the likelihood or chances that your baby will be born with a genetic condition. Further diagnostic tests can be taken to know the health of your baby more accurately.

What do I need to bring to my prenatal screening?

Please bring your Alberta Health Care Card as well as a requisition form from your midwife or doctor.

Are prenatal screening tests mandatory?

Prenatal screenings are not mandatory. It is your personal choice and should be discussed between you and your doctor.

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