Prenatal Testing and Screening | OB-GYN


Prenatal Testing and Screening

Our specialists offer the full range of prenatal tests to check the health of you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.

Medically reviewed by Laila Rhee, M.S. on Oct. 16, 2023.

Pregnant woman smiling at her provider in an exam room.

Support for You During Pregnancy

UC Davis Health offers prenatal tests through the California Prenatal Screening Program and other reference laboratories. We then help you use the test results to make the best health care decisions for your family.


Types of Prenatal Screening and Testing

When you are pregnant, it is important to ensure your unborn baby receives the best care. Part of that care should include prenatal tests to check on your health and your baby’s.

There are three main types of prenatal tests:

  • Routine tests: Routine tests check your health and occur throughout your pregnancy.
  • Screening tests: These tests look at whether your baby has an increased chance of a birth defect (congenital anomaly) or genetic disorder.
  • Diagnostic tests: Providers use these tests to confirm if your unborn baby has a congenital anomaly or genetic disorder

Risk Factors for Pregnancy Complications

We recommend routine prenatal testing for everyone. Your provider may also recommend further prenatal screening tests if you have any of these risk factors:

Age of the Mother and/or Father

The chance of chromosomal abnormalities increases the older the mother and father are during pregnancy. Chromosomes are packages that carry your genes.

Abnormal Pregnancy Ultrasound Results

You may need further testing to follow up on any unusual ultrasound findings.

Family History or Another Child With a Genetic Condition

Congenital abnormalities can run in families and increase the chance of passing along the condition.

Genetic Condition Carrier

If you know that you or your partner carry the genes for a genetic condition, your provider may suggest extra prenatal testing.

Medical Conditions

Health conditions such as autoimmune diseases, diabetes or previous gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or seizure disorders may increase your health risks during pregnancy. If you take certain medications or develop certain infections during pregnancy, those can also increase your risk for pregnancy complications.

Past Miscarriages or Stillbirths

A history of pregnancy-related complications may put you at a higher chance of having a baby with a congenital anomaly.

Abnormal Screening Test Results

Abnormal prenatal screening test results may require follow up with more screening tests or diagnostic tests.


Diagnosing Congenital Anomalies

We perform screening tests during your first trimester and second trimester) to look at your child’s chance for congenital anomalies. But these tests cannot confirm whether your child will be born with a condition.

We usually have results from screening tests within two weeks. If you have a positive result, we may recommend diagnostic tests to confirm whether your baby has a congenital anomaly.

The UC Davis Fetal Care and Treatment Center provides the full range of prenatal screening and diagnostic tests. Getting an early diagnosis can help you figure out the best care for you and your child. Learn more about our fetal care services.


Prenatal Screening and Diagnosis at UC Davis Health

Our caring specialists offer the complete range of prenatal screening services at all stages of your pregnancy. Our prenatal tests include:

Routine Test: Blood Pressure

Throughout your pregnancy, your provider tests your blood for signs of high blood pressure, especially after the 20th week of pregnancy (preeclampsia).

Routine Test: Blood Tests

We check your blood for signs of infection (hepatitis B and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV and syphilis) and anemia. We also check your blood type and Rh factor, which are proteins people have on their red blood cells.

Routine Test: Urine Tests

We test your urine for signs of preeclampsia, bladder infections and kidney infections.

Routine Test: Pregnancy Ultrasound

Sound waves show an image of your baby in your uterus and can show your baby’s position and shape. We also do an ultrasound to look for Down syndrome by checking the fluid at the back of your baby’s neck (nuchal translucency ultrasound).

First Trimester: Noninvasive Prenatal Screening (NIPS)

We offer NIPS testing at 10 weeks of pregnancy. Also known as cell-free DNA testing, we check your blood for your baby’s DNA. We then screen your baby’s DNA for genetic conditions including Down syndrome.

First Trimester: Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)

CVS is a diagnostic test. We may offer it between 10 and 13 weeks of pregnancy if you have an abnormal screening test result. We may also offer it if you are at higher chance of having a baby with a congenital or genetic anomaly. During it, we test a piece of your placenta (tissue that passes blood and nutrients to your unborn baby).

Second Trimester: Fetal Anatomy Ultrasound

We look at images of your baby between 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy to check their size and look for any physical differences.

Second Trimester: Maternal Serum Alpha-Fetoprotein (MSAFP) Screen

We may offer you a blood test, also called the MSAFP blood test, between 15 and 21 weeks of pregnancy. The screen measures birth defect risk by looking at a protein level in your blood.

Second Trimester: Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a prenatal diagnostic test that we may offer between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. We may suggest it if you had an abnormal screening test result. We may also offer it if you are at a higher chance of having a baby with a congenital anomaly or genetic disorder. During this, we look at the baby’s DNA and we may measure your baby’s protein levels by sampling amniotic fluid.

Who does it affect?

1 in 33Babies born in the U.S. have a congenital anomaly

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Data & Statistics on Birth Defects

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