Antenatal screening tests

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Antenatal screening tests

There are many antenatal tests that can be carried out during pregnancy which will offer reassurance to the parents. They involve monitoring the health of the mother and the baby throughout the pregnancy until the birth. As well assessing both the health of the mother and the unborn baby antenatal screening tests also detect any diseases which may affect the foetus or even any diseases which may cause complication with the baby once they are born. It is also important for these antenatal tests to take place as unborn babies are more at risk from developing diseases because they rely on their mother for protection as their immune systems are weak. Any problems that may occur during labour, before and after the birth of the baby as a result of a disease may be helped by these screening tests to solve any potential problems. Factors which could possibly increase the risk of an abnormality within the pregnancy include the age of the mother and her medical history as well as a family history of genetic conditions.

The two main types of antenatal screening tests which detect abnormalities or problems with the foetus include amniocentesis and blood tests. An amniocentesis test is carried out to detect genetic disorders which include muscular dystrophy, haemophilia and sickle cell disorders. Blood tests are done to check for anaemia, spina bifida and blood groupings. Below are the previous main tests that are carried out during the pregnancy and the methods used.


An amniocentesis test is carried out during a woman’s pregnancy. The aim of the test is to provide doctors with information concerned with the development of the foetus. The test shows whether the foetus has developed or could develop any abnormalities or serious health conditions such as diseases. A test such as amniocentesis is normally only offered to woman who appears to show signs of risk for their baby to develop or already have developed any abnormalities or a serious condition. An amniocentesis test is usually carried out between 15 and 20 weeks of the pregnancy. An ultrasound scan is used to locate the foetus position by using sound waves to make a picture of the foetus in the uterus on a TV screen. A hollow needle is then gently put in through the belly and used to withdraw amniotic fluid from the amniotic sac that surrounds the foetus in the womb is took. If the foetus moves too close to the needle while the doctor is trying to withdraw the fluid it will be taken out and the doctor will try the same procedure again in a different place. The amount and size of the chromosomes in the fluid are then thoroughly examined and tested for a number of conditions such muscular dystrophy, haemophilia and sickle cell disorders or any other abnormalities during the baby’s growth.

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Right shows a labelled diagram of an amniocentesis test with the equipment used.

An amniocentesis is not offered for those parents who wish to just know the sex of their baby however an amniocentesis test can provide a very accurate result of the sex of the baby. The sex of the baby can be important if there is an increased risk of abnormality such as muscular dystrophy which can be passed on from the mother or the father which occurs mainly in one sex which is in males. For these parents whose child may have an increased risk of ...

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

A very good essay on the subject of ante-natal screening. The writer has discussed the need for screening and several diseases that are tested for. However, they have fallen into the trap of describing the disease in a little too much detail. The essay could be enhanced by discussing the pros and cons of the tests and the effect that they could have on the mother. Worth looking into. ****