Many prenatal tests are performed routinely in all pregnant women. Blood tests, urine tests, and ultrasounds pose little or no risk to the mother or baby. These tests can provide valuable information to help your doctor care for you and your developing baby. Other tests come with significant risks. Therefore, these tests are only considered for women with high risk pregnancies.
Some maternal factors that can make a pregnancy high risk include:
Increased age (35 or older)Previous birth of a premature babyPrevious birth of a baby with a birth defect
A serious medical problem, such as
high blood pressure,
lupus, moderate to severe
asthma, or a
seizure disorderEthnic background in which genetic disorders are common (in the mother or the father)
Family history of
(in the mother or the father)
Your doctor may recommend more invasive tests if your pregnancy is high risk, but the decision to have a test is yours. Understanding each test and what it measures, how reliable it is, and the risk associated with the test will help you make your decision. It is important to discuss your options with your doctor, especially if the test indicates there may be a problem.
Couples may choose to have certain prenatal tests for different reasons, including to:
Allow for possible medical interventions that may be neededBegin planning for a child with special needsIdentify support groups and resourcesMake a decision about whether to continue the pregnancy
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Diagnosing birth defects [pamphlet]. April 2005; AP164.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice bulletin: invasive prenatal testing for aneuploidy.
December 2007; No. 88.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice bulletin: screening for fetal chromosomal abnormalities.
January 2007; No. 77.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Andrea Chisholm
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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