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Your Guide to Prenatal Tests

About Screening Tests for Birth Defects

About Screening Tests for Birth Defects

Once you’re pregnant, your doctor will suggest a variety of genetic screening tests for birth defects. These screen for chromosomal disorders and neural tube defects. Generally, you’ll be told what each test can detect, how accurate it is and what’s next if the results are abnormal. Be aware that some screening tests have a fairly high rate of false positive results (meaning they show chances of birth defects when babies are actually OK).

Whether or not to pursue this testing is up to you, but all women are offered some type of screening test, regardless of their age or risk factors. Screening tests only screen for the chance of a genetic condition; if there’s a concerning result, you’re offered a diagnostic test, which involves tissue or fluid sampling, to confirm it.

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By Jenilee Matz, MPH. Published on May 6, 2013. Jenilee is a medical writer, health educator and triathlete based in Charlotte, NC. Updated on December 30, 2015.
Reviewed by Elisabeth Aron, MD, MPH, FACOG on September 27, 2015.