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.