Screening Tests


Heart care

You will be offered some screening tests during pregnancy to try to find any health problems that could affect you or your baby, such as infectious diseases, Down’s syndrome, or physical abnormalities. The tests can help you make choices about care or treatment during your pregnancy or after your baby is born.

Screening tests are used to find people at higher risk of a health problem. This means they can get earlier, potentially more effective, treatment or make informed decisions about their health. Screening tests are not perfect. Some people will be told that they or their baby are at high risk of having a health problem when in fact they do not have the problem.Also, a few people will be told that they or their baby are at low risk of having a health problem when in fact they do have the problem.

The screening tests offered during pregnancy are either ultrasound scans or blood tests, or a combination of both.Ultrasound scans may detect physical abnormalities, such as spina bifida. Blood tests can help find the risk of inherited disorders such as sickle cell anaemia. Blood tests combined with scans can help find the risk of chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome.

Screening tests will not harm you or your baby, but there are some risks to consider. Some screening tests in pregnancy can lead to serious decisions for you. For screenple, screening tests for Down’s syndrome can lead to difficult decisions about whether to have a diagnostic test that carries a possible risk of miscarriage. If the results of diagnostic tests are positive, they can lead to a decision about whether you want to continue or end the pregnancy. Having a further test or termination will always be your decision, and health professionals will support you whatever you decide. You may want to think carefully about whether or not you want to have these screening tests.

Different screening tests are offered at different times during pregnancy. The screening test for sickle cell and thalassaemia should be offered before 10 weeks. You will be offered screening for Down’s syndrome around the time of your dating scan, which happens when you are around 11 to 14 weeks pregnant.You will be offered screening for abnormalities at a mid-pregnancy scan when you are around 18-21 weeks pregnant.

No – a screening test does not usually say for certain if you or your baby have a health problem. It tells you if you or your baby are at a high or low risk of having the problem. Women or babies found to be at high risk of a problem will often be offered a diagnostic test. A diagnostic test gives a more definite “yes” or “no” answer.

No – it’s up to you whether or not to have a screening test. It is a personal choice that only you can make. You can discuss each of the screening tests you are offered with your midwife or doctor and decide whether or not it is right for you.Some of the screening tests you will be offered are recommended by the NHS, such as:

  • Blood tests for infectious diseases
  • Eye screening if you have pre-existing diabetes (not gestational diabetes)
  • New-born checks

This is because the results from these tests can help make sure that you or your baby get urgent treatment for serious problems.

You can find out more about each of the different screening tests by clicking on the links here:

  • Screening for infectious diseases (hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis)
  • Screening for inherited conditions (sickle cell, thalassaemia and other haemoglobin disorders)
  • Screening for Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndrome
  • Screening for abnormalities (18-21-week scan)

Some screening tests will also be offered to your baby after they are born. You can read more about these tests by clicking on the links here:

  • New-born physical screenination
  • New-born hearing screening
  • New-born blood spot screening



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