Maternal Serum Screening

Prenatal screenings look for health problems before your baby is born. Finding health problems early lets your MaineHealth doctors prepare to best care for your baby. 

What is a maternal serum screening?

Maternal serum screening is part of prenatal screening. It is sometimes called AFP (alpha fetoprotein) Maternal or Maternal Serum AFP. The maternal serum screening is a blood test that helps your doctor understand your baby’s risk of conditions called chromosomal disorders that include:

  • Genetic condition that causes developmental and cognitive delays.
  • Edwards’ syndrome: Rare genetic condition that leads to serious developmental delays.

Screening for birth defects

It can also be used to screen for neural tube disorders that include:

  • Spina bifida: Rare birth defect in which a baby’s spinal cord does not develop like it should.
  • Anencephaly: Baby is born with an underdeveloped brain and skull that is not fully formed. Babies with anencephaly may be stillborn, or survive only a brief time after birth.

Should I have a maternal serum screening?

Your doctor will help you decide if a maternal serum screening is right for you. This test is recommended for women who:

  • Have a family history of birth defects
  • Are 35 years or older
  • Have diabetes
  • Have used certain medicines or drugs during pregnancy

The maternal serum screening is a blood test done during the second trimester of pregnancy. Blood will be taken from a vein in your arm with a needle and sent to a lab for testing. Your doctor may also recommend other tests. These test results can be combined with your maternal serum screening results and other health factors to get a full picture of your baby’s risk. When combined, this is called a triple or quad screening.

Other health factors considered include:

  • Your weight
  • Your family health history
  • Your race
  • Whether or not you have diabetes

What do the results mean?

If your screening is positive, it means that your baby may be at increased risk of having a chromosomal or neural tube disorder. It is important to remember that this is a screening and only tells you if your baby is at risk. It does not tell you for sure if your baby a health problem. Like with many screenings and tests, understanding your results can be confusing. You should discuss the results of your screening with your doctor or a genetic counselor.

Complete OB-GYN care

MaineHealth provides obstetrics and gynecology services at doctor’s offices, specialty clinics and community hospitals. The OB-GYNs at MaineHealth provide women’s reproductive care that is skilled and compassionate.