During our last pregnancy check-up appointment, the doctor gave my husband and I a heads up on the next one: we would talk about prenatal testing. My husband and I had already decided that we would keep the baby as full term as happened naturally so we weren’t really worried about doing any testing.
Well, at the appointment there wasn’t much talking about the test. The doctor mentioned a “quad screen” but said because of our other risk factors being low we could wait until after the ultrasound to decide whether it was super important to get the test done. I left with just as much knowledge as when I got there so I decided to do a little more research just so I knew more about this “quad screen”.
It didn’t take long to find information, and the American Pregnancy Association website had all the information I needed and wanted. Turns out the test is named after the four substances that it addresses. The first is AFP which is a protein produced by the baby and high level of this could indicate neural tube defects. The last three are different substances but can indicate the same thing: chromosomal defects. They are the hormone hCG (produced by the placenta), a type of estrogen called Estrid that both the placenta and baby produce, and finally Inhibin-A which is a protein produced by the placenta and ovaries.
The biggest thing to remember about this test is that it is a screening test, not a diagnostic test! This “quad screen” just indicates if there are markers for a risk of abnormalities and is only one factor that is considered in the whole bunch.
As far as I know, all pregnant women at the 16 week mark are offered this screening but is most recommended for women who have a family history of birth defects, are over the age of 35, used harsh medications and/or drugs during pregnancy, are diabetic and use insulin, have suffered from a viral infection during pregnancy or have been exposed to high levels of radiation. At this time there are no known risks or side effects to this screening as it is just a blood draw.
Something I had not thought about before my doctor mentioned it was that doing the test is not necessarily a matter of choosing to continue to carry baby to full term or to terminate the pregnancy but that depending on the situation, the way labor and delivery is approached may differ than the text book plan. Also, if there are quirks with your pregnancy or baby, it is nice to know ahead of time so you can cope with the idea and prepare your life for your new bundle of joy and the changes that any new baby brings.
Hope this didn’t freak anybody out. I just thought it would be informative as I found it helpful. Good luck in everything.