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Common Prenatal Tests & Screenings

We offer routine tests to make sure your baby is healthy. Your doctor may also recommend additional testing if you have any conditions that might affect the health of you or your baby.

There are two main types of prenatal testing:

  • Screening: Blood tests and ultrasound exams to identify if your baby could be born with a birth defect
  • Diagnostic: More invasive testing that can confirm a suspected diagnosis

Our prenatal testing services are available for both low-risk and high-risk pregnancies.

Why Do You Need Prenatal Tests?

Prenatal testing can help you make informed decisions. Receiving normal results can ease your anxiety about your baby's health.

Many tests can detect some health problems that can be treated during pregnancy or immediately after birth.

Meeting with a genetic counselor also can help you determine if you should pursue prenatal testing. For more information, see Genetic Counseling.

Common Prenatal Tests

Your doctors will discuss with you the risks and benefits of your testing options to help you decide what is best for your family. Depending on your situation, tests offered may include:

First- and second-trimester genetic screening

This screening includes nuchal translucency (NT) ultrasound in conjunction with blood tests offered by the California Prenatal Screening Program.

Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)

This testing looks at DNA from your baby's placenta in a sample of your blood to identify whether your child is at risk for a genetic disorder.

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)

This testing takes a sample of chorionic villi from your placenta to predict whether your baby may have a chromosomal condition.

This diagnostic procedure removes a sample of amniotic fluid from your uterus to test for certain genetic conditions. 

Chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA)

This chromosome test is used to determine genetic abnormalities, along with amniocentesis or CVS.

Carrier screening

This test can be done before or during pregnancy to detect if you or your partner carry a gene for certain genetic disorders.

Gestational diabetes

A glucose (sugar) screening between the 24th and 28th week of your pregnancy can determine if you have gestational diabetes, which could cause pregnancy complications.

Prenatal Ultrasound

Ultrasound scans offer a non-invasive, accurate diagnostic tool for dating a pregnancy, checking for any problems, and getting information about the fetus.

An ultrasound exam uses high-frequency sound waves to scan a woman's abdomen and pelvic cavity, creating a picture (sonogram) of the baby and placenta. It does not use X-rays or other types of radiation that could harm a fetus, and may be used as early as the fifth week of pregnancy.

At UC San Diego Health, our technology allows us to analyze complete, three-dimensional (3D) pictures of a fetus. We also have the capability to perform 4D ultrasound, which captures moving 3D images.

Except for the first-trimester ultrasound to confirm a pregnancy, ultrasounds are typically performed by our maternal-fetal care and genetics specialists at our Hillcrest or Sorrento Valley locations.

UC San Diego Health is accredited by the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine in both obstetric ultrasound and fetal echocardiography. A radiologist or perinatologist reviews all results.

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