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Here’s What To Expect at Your Prenatal Screening

Jan 1, 2024 | Pregnancy

Prenatal screening can give you valuable information about your baby’s health months before they’re born.

Throughout your pregnancy, you’re faced with nearly countless choices and opportunities. Having as much information as possible about your baby’s health empowers you to make these decisions with confidence.

Our OB/GYN team at The Association for Women’s Health Care in The Loop in Chicago and Northbrook, Illinois, supports you through all three trimesters and can advise you on the best times for prenatal screenings.

During your first appointment, our experts can discuss prenatal screening tests with you and help you decide whether you want or need any of them.

While they can’t make a definitive diagnosis, modern prenatal screenings inform expecting parents of their babies’ risk for various genetic disorders. We make sure you understand how each test works and what it is designed to find.

We can then interpret your results and give you options for subsequent diagnostic tests if they’re available.

If you’re newly pregnant or plan on being pregnant soon, here’s what you can expect at your prenatal screening with The Association for Women’s Health Care.

Your first trimester

The first 13 weeks of your pregnancy are the first trimester. Between 10 and 13 weeks, it’s time to consider first-trimester screening. During this prenatal screening visit, you undergo two different tests:

Blood test

We draw a sample of your blood to collect and analyze DNA fragments. Using this strategy, we can screen your baby for multiple chromosomal abnormalities including Down syndrome.

Ultrasound

The second step of your first-trimester screening is an ultrasound imaging test. During an ultrasound, we use a handheld device, called a transducer, which reflects sound waves off your internal organs and tissues to produce a real-time image.

This particular ultrasound screening is meant to examine your baby’s nuchal fold, which is an area of fluid behind the neck. The size of your baby’s nuchal fold can indicate an increased risk of several chromosomal conditions.

Second-trimester screening

You have more opportunities to learn about your growing baby during a second-trimester screening. Sometime between weeks 15 and 22 of your pregnancy, the second-trimester screening involves yet another blood draw called a “quadruple” or “quad.”

We analyze the blood sample for four different pregnancy hormones. The levels of these hormones, while also factoring in your age and ethnicity, can help screen for multiple genetic disorders.

Second-trimester screening also involves an ultrasound imaging test between 18 weeks and 22 weeks. This time, the shape of your baby is more discernible, so your OB/GYN can search for physical features in the head, spine, organs, and limbs that indicate congenital conditions.

What happens next

If any of the screenings indicate a high risk for a genetic condition, you have the choice to proceed with diagnostic testing. Diagnostic tests aren’t the same as screenings: They can tell you with certainty whether your baby has a specific disorder. These tests are more invasive than screenings.

Our team can help you weigh the pros and cons to decide whether to get diagnostic tests like amniocentesis, which involves collecting amniotic fluid.

If you’re early in pregnancy and wondering whether you should get prenatal screening tests, contact our offices today. Call The Association for Women’s Health Care or book your first prenatal appointment online.