Prenatal diagnostics are used to screen for potential health problems in pregnant women and babies in utero.
Prenatal diagnostics play an important role in identifying potential health concerns in pregnant women and developing babies, including fetal genetic and chromosomal abnormalities. There are multiple imaging studies, genetic tests and clinical labs that a woman’s care team may recommend throughout her pregnancy, including but not limited to:
- Ultrasound screening
- Maternal blood testing
- Fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Fetal echocardiogram
- Fetal blood testing
- Chorionic villus sampling
- Sequential screening
- Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), or cell-free fetal DNA testing
What Prenatal Conditions Are Diagnosable?
Physicians who care for pregnant women use prenatal diagnostic methods to screen for maternal or fetal conditions, such as:
- Gestational diabetes
- Placenta previa
- Amniotic fluid disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
- Down syndrome
- Neural tube defects, such as anencephaly and spina bifida
- Genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia
How Are Prenatal Conditions Diagnosed?
Prenatal diagnostics vary based on several factors, including the mother’s overall health, the health of the fetus and the stage of pregnancy. Some prenatal diagnostic tests, including ultrasound screenings and maternal blood testing, are performed on a routine basis. If routine tests indicate additional screenings are necessary, more specialized or invasive procedures (such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling) may be recommended to take a closer look at the baby’s health.
While each woman’s individual medical needs vary, most expecting mothers have a prenatal appointment every 4 to 6 weeks. During this appointment, a physician will listen to the baby’s heartbeat, check the mother’s blood pressure, measure the size of her uterus and take note of other important health characteristics to ensure mom and baby are in good health. Some women opt to receive genetic screening to identify potential health risks early in pregnancy.
How Effective Are Prenatal Diagnostics?
Advancements in imaging tests, clinical labs and other diagnostic procedures allow physicians to promptly identify and address many maternal and fetal medical conditions, including fetal abnormalities that were once considered undetectable until after birth.
Comprehensive prenatal diagnostics, high-risk obstetrics care, labor and delivery services and other specialized women’s health services are available at Tampa General Hospital.