Various screening tests are offered to all pregnant women in the UK.

They're one of the key aspects of antenatal care - these tests are designed to ensure both you and your baby are healthy throughout your pregnancy. Here's a friendly guide to help you understand what to expect, and why these screenings are important.

What are Screening Tests?

Screening tests during pregnancy are simple procedures that can help detect potential health issues for you and your baby early on; they're also used to find people at higher chance of certain health problems. They're generally non-invasive, meaning they don't pose any risk to you or your baby, and are part of routine antenatal care.

Types of Screening Tests

  1. Blood Tests:

    • Initial Blood Tests: Early in your pregnancy, your midwife or GP will arrange blood tests to check your blood type, iron levels and screen for infections like HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis. These tests help identify any conditions that might need to be managed during your pregnancy.

    • Down’s Syndrome, Edwards’ Syndrome, and Patau’s Syndrome Screening: Typically offered between 10 and 14 weeks, this combined test involves a blood sample and an ultrasound scan to assess the risk of these chromosomal conditions.
  2. Ultrasound Scans:

    • Dating Scan: Usually done between 8 and 14 weeks, this scan helps determine your due date and check the baby's heartbeat and early development.

    • Anomaly Scan: Performed around 18 to 21 weeks, this detailed scan checks for physical abnormalities in the baby. It’s an exciting opportunity to see your baby more clearly and can often reveal the baby's gender (if you'd like to know).

  3. Other Screening Tests:

    • Gestational Diabetes Screening: Typically offered between 24 and 28 weeks if you have risk factors such as a high BMI, previous gestational diabetes, or a family history of diabetes.

    • Group B Streptococcus (GBS) Screening: Group B Strep screening is not routinely offered in the UK but, if you're not offered one on the NHS, you can arrange for a private test if you'd like to. GBS is a common bacteria that can be passed to the baby during birth, so knowing if you carry it can help manage labour and delivery safely.

Why Are These Tests Important?

Screening tests provide valuable information about your health, and your baby's. They help to:

  • Detect conditions early, allowing for timely intervention and management.
  • Reassure you about your baby's health and development.
  • Plan and prepare for any special care your baby might need at birth or shortly after.

What If a Screening Test Shows a Problem?

If a screening test indicates a potential issue, try not to panic. Screening tests are not always diagnostic, meaning they don’t give a definite answer, but rather indicate if further testing is needed. Your health team will discuss the results with you and explain any additional tests or steps that may be necessary. It’s important to remember that most pregnancies proceed normally and result in healthy babies, even if a screening test flags a potential issue.

Your Rights and Choices

All screening tests are optional. Screening tests cannot harm you or the baby but it is important to consider carefully whether or not to have these tests.

You have the right to make informed decisions about which tests you want to undergo. Your midwife will provide detailed information and answer any questions to help you make the best choices for you and your baby.

Remember, your midwife and GP are there to support you every step of the way. If you have any concerns or questions about any tests, don’t hesitate to ask.

More Resources

NHS website

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