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Prenatal Testing

At Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, our mission is to ensure you receive the most advanced medical care, compassion and support throughout your pregnancy and delivery. Part of that process includes prenatal testing to identify any potential risks or issues that need to be monitored or managed during your pregnancy.

Prenatal tests are performed at the recommendation of your doctor, based on your individual health profile. The most common tests are listed below, grouped into the trimester when they are most often done, though the timing may vary according to your individual circumstances and your doctor’s recommendations. All tests are optional.

First-Trimester Screenings (Weeks 1-13)

  • First-Trimester Screening — This noninvasive test combines a maternal blood screening test with an ultrasound evaluation to identify risk for specific chromosomal abnormalities, including Down syndrome and Trisomy 18, also known as Edward syndrome.
  • Chronic Villus Sampling (CVS) — CVS is performed to detect chromosome abnormalities and genetic disorders with high levels of accuracy. This procedure involves removing a sample from the placenta at the point where it attaches to the uterine wall.
  • Nuchal Translucency (NT) Scan – This ultrasound test assesses the baby’s risk of having Down syndrome, other chromosomal abnormalities and congenital heart problems.

Second-Trimester Screenings (Weeks 13-27)

  • Triple Screen Test — This maternal blood screening test evaluates three specific substances: alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), a protein produced by the fetus; human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone produced within the placenta; and estriol, an estrogen produced by both the fetus and placenta. Results of this test are combined with the mother’s age, weight, ethnicity and gestation of pregnancy to assess the probability of potential genetic disorders. This test also can be used to identify a multiples pregnancy and pregnancies that are more or less advanced than thought.
  • Quad Screen Test — Also known as AFP Plus and the Multiple Marker Screening, the Quad Screen Test measures the same three substances as the Triple Screen Test plus a fourth substance known as Inhibin-A. Test results indicate if a mother is at risk of carrying a baby with a genetic disorder. Abnormal test results require additional testing to make a diagnosis.
  • Amniocentesis — This test may be recommended by your doctor following an abnormal Triple Screen Test result. The procedure removes a sample of amniotic fluid for testing to detect neural tube defects, genetic disorders and chromosome abnormalities. This test also can be used to determine the severity of fetal anemia in babies with Rh disease, and to assess lung maturity.
  • Cordocentesis — This procedure retrieves a small sample of fetal blood for testing to detect chromosome abnormalities and blood disorders. Cordocentesis is usually done when diagnostic information cannot be obtained through amniocentesis, CVS or ultrasounds, of if the results of those tests are inconclusive.
  • Fetal Echocardiogram — This test uses ultrasound waves to assess the baby’s heart anatomy and function. It is used to evaluate suspected congenital heart defects.

Third-Trimester Screenings (Weeks 28-birth)

  • Fetal Non-Stress Test — This test measures fetal heart rate and the rate of contractions to determine if oxygen levels to the fetus are low. Low oxygen levels can often be caused by problems with the placenta or umbilical cord. The test is called “non-stress” because no physical pressure is placed on the fetus during the exam.
  • Biophysical Profile — This exam combines an ultrasound evaluation with a Non-stress Test to determine fetal health. It is performed if there is a question about fetal health or if the pregnancy is considered high-risk.
  • Glucose Screening — This standard test is performed to determine whether a woman may have gestational diabetes that needs to be managed.
  • Group B Streptococcus (GBS) — This standard screening determines the presence of a bacteria found in the mother’s cervix that can be passed onto the baby. If test results are positive, the mother will be treated with antibiotics.