Prenatal Testing: Facts, Types And Pros & Cons

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Prenatal tests can be confusing and scary, so why should you opt to do them?

Prenatal tests can provide valuable information about the baby and mother’s health. There are two types of prenatal testing, genetic screening and genetic testing.Administered between the 10th and 13th week of pregnancy, prenatal tests can hep a physician decide what advice to give the pregnant mother, drugs to prescribe or prohibit and other treatments to administer.

Genetic Screening VS Genetic Testing

Genetic screening is the measuring a level of risk for a genetic disease in the fetus. Screening tests assess the degree of risk, or chance, that the fetus may potentially have certain common birth defects, but they cannot tell with certainty if the baby actually has the problem, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Genetic testing or diagnostic testing can actually detect many genetic conditions caused by chromosome abnormalities. They usually can tell prospective parents whether or not their fetus has a particular genetic problem.

The Basics

The basic prenatal tests are:

Screening tests/diagnostic tests are identified in the list.

Blood Tests: These tests are used to find out the blood type, rhesus factor, glucose level, iron and hemoglobin levels. Blood tests are also used to check for STDs, rubella (german measles) and chickenpox immunity and toxoplasmosis.

Pelvic Exam: This involves taking a pap smear to screen for cervical cancer. Samples are taken to detect STDs. A bimanual internal exam will also be performed to check the size of the uterus and pelvis, and check for abnormalities in the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes

Physical Examination: The mother’s breasts, heart, lungs and blood pressure will be checked.

Glucose Tolerance Test: This is used to diagnose gestational diabetes in pregnant women. A Glucose Challenge Screening is first performed,and of the woman tests positive for it, the Glucose Tolerance Test is then performed.

Alpha Fetoprotein Test: This screening test is used to tell whether the mother is at risk of having a baby with spina bifida, anencephaly and other congenital defects. It’s usually done between the 15th and 20th week.

Ultrasound: Using high-frequency sound waves, the ultrasound captures an image(sonogram)  of the baby and placenta and scans the woman’s pelvic cavity and abdomen. The are different kinds of ultrasounds performed at different stages of the pregnancy. Some are standard ultrasound, advanced ultrasound, transvaginal scan, Doppler ultrasound, 3-d ultrasound and fetal echocardiography.

Nuchal Translucency Ultrasound: It’s used to determine a  baby’s risk or potential for having Down’s Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities and is performed sometime between the 11th to 14th week.

Chorionic Villus Sampling: This is a diagnostic test used to determine chromosomal or genetic defects in the fetus. It is done by collecting material from the placenta using a tube (thin catheter) that’s passed through the cervix or needle, that’s used to draw out the sample of tissue. It is performed 10-13th weeks from the last menstrual period. It’s important to know that there is a risk of a miscarriage and of the baby developing a limb or digit deficiency after CVS is performed.

Cystic Fibrosis Screen: This is one of the early prenatal tests done. It’s usually performed on both the mother and her partner to determine if either of them are CF gene carriers. If both partners test positive for the gene, further testing will be done to find out the risk of the baby having cystic fibrosis

Triple Screen Test: This test is used to check for the levels of three specific substances- Alpha Fetoprotein, hCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin) and Estriol. It is a non-invasive procedure and it’s done through a blood test. It’s also used to discover if the pregnancy carries multiple babies and if it is more or less advanced than was originally thought.

Quad Screen Test: This is very similar to the Triple Screen Test, except that it looks for a fourth substance called Inhibin-A.

Urinalysis: Urine tests are performed regularly throughout pregnancy. They are used to assess possible bladder or kidney infections, preeclampsia, dehydration  and diabetes.

Amniocentesis: This test is used to check for genetic, chromosomal and neural tube defects in the fetus and it’s 98%-99% accurate. It’s performed 15-18 weeks into the pregnancy. Miscarriage is a risk associated with undergoing amniocentesis.

Pros and cons of genetic screening

The most obvious benefit for undergoing genetic screening is that the family obtains the information about the possibility of pre genetically exposed diseases. Because of this the family can determine what is the best way to proceed with this information. This can include anything from taking precautions with specialty doctors to taking different prenatal vitamins. If it a genetic screening gives information on chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, a genetic diagnostic test is recommended to ensure that the genetic screening did not give a false positive. Genetic screenings can give false positive results and can lead parents to believe that their unborn child has genetic abnormalities that they actually do not.

Pros and cons of genetic testing/diagnostic testing

The benefits to partaking in the genetic testing or diagnostic testing is that knowing the information in advance can help parents prepare themselves for a baby that may have special needs.

So What’s Next?

Genetic screening can predict the likelihood that your child will be develop a genetic disease. If your already know your child will be predisposed or may suspect it, you should look into umbilical cord blood banking. Many of these genetic diseases can be treated now or will soon have FDA approvals for treatment with umbilical cord blood and tissue. If your child is predisposed to have a certain genetic disease that can be treated with umbilical cord blood, you can use your Flexible Spending Account to use nontaxable funds to pay for private umbilical cord blood banking. For more information on if you qualify for a FSA compensation of private cord blood banking, please speak to your doctor and insurance company.

Umbilical cord blood and cord tissue banking is a protection plan for your baby from cradle to college. Learn more about the potentially life saving power of umbilical cord blood banking from an Americord Cord Blood Specialist. Schedule your free cord blood consultation now.


“Prenatal Genetic Screening Tests: Benefits & Risks.” LiveScience. Purch, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

“Prenatal Testing.” American Pregnancy Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

“Prenatal Testing: Ultrasounds, Blood Tests, and Your Baby.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.