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  • Writer's pictureMidwife Pip

Screening Tests in Pregnancy

Updated: Apr 16, 2022

What you need to know about Screening in Pregnancy

You'll be offered some screening tests during pregnancy to check for any health conditions that could affect you or your baby.

The tests can help you make choices about further tests and care or treatment during your pregnancy or after your baby's born.

All screening tests offered by the NHS are free.

Screening tests in pregnancy

Pregnancy Screening tests are NOT PERFECT:

It is important to recognise that a screening test is not a diagnostic test. This means that a condition may be suspected but is not always confirmed, you may therefore be offered additional testing or procedures following screening.

Screening tests are used to find people at higher chance of a health problem.

This means they can get earlier, potentially more effective, treatment or make informed decisions about their health.

Some people will be told that they or their baby have a higher chance of having a health condition when in fact they do not have the condition. Also, a few people will be told that they or their baby have a lower chance of having a health condition when in fact they do have the condition.

What do Pregnancy Screening Tests Involve?

The screening tests offered during pregnancy in England are either ultrasound scans or blood tests, or a combination of both.

Pregnancy Screening tests are OPTIONAL:

Screening tests cannot harm you or the baby, but it is important to consider carefully whether or not to have these tests.

Some screening tests in pregnancy can lead to difficult decisions for you.

For example, screening tests for Down's syndrome, Edwards' syndrome or Patau's syndrome can lead to difficult decisions about whether to have a diagnostic test, such as amniocentesis, that carries a chance of miscarriage.

A diagnostic test tells you for certain whether you or your baby has the condition.

If diagnostic tests show your baby has a condition, this can lead to a decision about whether you want to continue or end the pregnancy.

Having a further test or ending the pregnancy will always be your decision, and health professionals will support you whatever you decide.

When will I be offered pregnancy screening tests?

Different screening tests are offered at different times during pregnancy.

The screening test for sickle cell and thalassaemia should be offered as early as possible before 10 weeks of pregnancy.

It's recommended that screening blood tests for HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis should happen as early as possible in pregnancy.

This is so you can be offered specialist care and treatment to protect your health and reduce the chance of your baby getting infected.

These blood tests should not be delayed until the first scan appointment.

You'll be offered screening for Down's syndrome, Edwards' syndrome and Patau's syndrome around the time of your dating scan, which happens when you're around 11 to 14 weeks pregnant.

You'll be offered screening to check your baby's development at a 20-week scan when you're around 18 to 21 weeks pregnant.

For further information about your screening tests in pregnancy check out:

(NHS, 2018)


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