Questions to consider
Prenatal screening tests for fetal abnormalities are optional. It's important to make an informed decision about prenatal testing, especially if you're screening for fetal conditions that can't be treated. Before going forward, consider these questions:
- What will you do with the test results? Normal results can ease your anxiety. However, if prenatal testing indicates that your baby might have a birth defect, you could be faced with wrenching decisions — such as whether to continue the pregnancy. On the other hand, you might welcome the opportunity to plan for your baby's care in advance.
- Will the information shape your prenatal care? Some prenatal tests detect problems that can be treated during pregnancy. In other cases, prenatal testing alerts your health care provider to a condition that requires immediate treatment after birth.
- How accurate are the results? Prenatal screening isn't perfect. The rate of inaccurate results, known as false-negative or false-positive results, varies from test to test.
- What are the risks? Weigh the risks of specific prenatal tests — such as anxiety, pain or possible miscarriage — against the value of knowing the results.
- What is the expense? Insurance coverage for prenatal testing varies. If the test you're considering isn't covered by your insurance plan, are you willing and able to cover the cost of the test on your own?
The decision is yours
Prenatal testing can provide information that influences your prenatal care. Remember, though, some screening tests introduce the need for careful personal decisions. Ultimately, the decision to pursue prenatal testing is up to you.
If you're concerned about prenatal testing, discuss the risks and benefits with your health care provider. You might also meet with a genetic counselor for a more thorough evaluation.
A genetic counselor can help you understand:
- The chances that your baby might be affected by a certain condition
- How the condition would impact your baby's life, including your baby's physical and mental development and quality of life
- Possible treatment options, either during pregnancy or after birth
Taking the time to evaluate your options will help you make the best decision for you and your baby.
Oct. 22, 2015
See more In-depth
- Ostrer H. Basic principles of genetic counseling for the obstetrical provider. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 15, 2015.
- Raby BA, et al. Genetic counseling and testing. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 15, 2015.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Ethics. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 363: Patient testing — Ethical issues in selection and counseling. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2007;109:1021. Reaffirmed 2012.
- Frequently asked questions. Pregnancy FAQ165. Screening tests for birth defects. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Screening-Tests-for-Birth-Defects. Accessed July 15, 2015.
- Frequently asked questions. Pregnancy FAQ164. Diagnostic tests for birth defects. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Diagnostic-Tests-for-Birth-Defects. Accessed July 15, 2015.
- Allyse M, et al. Cell-free fetal DNA testing for fetal aneuploidy and beyond: Clinical integration challenges in the US context. Human Reproduction. 2012;27:3123.
- Wolfberg A, et al. Noninvasive prenatal testing using cell-free nucleic acids in maternal blood. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 15, 2015.