- March 24, 2020
- Michael Allibone
- Posted in Resources
When you're pregnant, you may feel like you're undergoing constant prenatal screening and tests. However, a biochemical screening is especially important. In fact, you've likely already completed one form of biochemical prenatal screening by yourself: a pregnancy test.
A pregnancy test looks for the hormone hCG, which is a biochemical marker that indicates pregnancy. There are many other types of biochemical screenings that can be used to detect abnormalities during pregnancy.
These screenings are an important tool in diagnosing certain maternal conditions are typically quick and non-invasive, but they provide a wealth of information that will be valuable to you and your doctor.
So what is a biochemical screening? What can it tell you? And when should you have this type of prenatal screening?
Biochemical Prenatal Screening
During pregnancy, your body experiences major changes physically, hormonally, and biochemically. Biochemical markers can indicate certain abnormalities in your body, your placenta, or with your baby.
There are different screening methods for detecting these markers. Prenatal biochemical screening is performed using a sample of mom's blood. The lab results are then interpreted by your physician. Since biochemistry is just one part of pregnancy, your physician will use other tools to further assess any potential abnormalities.
Your physician may also do an ultrasound to help further refine the results of your screening.
Important Information Revealed
There are many different screening tools to help provide a risk assessment for potential pregnancy disorders, your healthcare provider will help you determine which is best for you.
Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) is a chromosomal condition that affects your baby's development. In screening for Down syndrome, a first-trimester screening test looks for markers including free Beta hCG, pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A), alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), placental growth factor (PIGF), and dimeric inhibin A (DIA).
Early-onset preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous maternal condition involving high blood pressure. A first-trimester preeclampsia screening test can measure the presence of biological markers in mom's blood, including PAPP-A, AFP, and PIGF. When detected at certain levels, these markers can indicate a higher risk of early-onset preeclampsia.
Neural tube defects are conditions that affect your baby's spine, such as spina bifida. Maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein and amniotic fluid alpha-fetoprotein are the biochemical markers used to detect a risk of neural tube defects.
When You Should Have Prenatal Screening
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there are guidelines in place for when each prenatal test should be performed. You can also take a look at our Testing Timeline for more details on when each screening applies to your and baby's journey.
Ideally, prenatal screening is performed in the first trimester when possible, typically between 11 to 14 weeks in pregnancy. With each additional biochemical prenatal screening test result, you'll get additional information about the health of your baby and your pregnancy.
- Graham, L. (2007). ACOG Releases Guidelines on Screening for Fetal Chromosomal Abnormalities. American Family Physician, 76(5), 712-716. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0901/p712.html
The information provided represents the general opinions of NTD Eurofins and is not intended to be used as specific advice for any one individual. Individuals should always consult with a physician to obtain specific advice and to receive answers to any and all questions or concerns related to health, wellness, pregnancy, and birth.
Pursuant to applicable federal and/or state laboratory requirements, Eurofins NTD, LLC has established and verified the accuracy and precision of its testing services. Tests are developed and performance characteristics determined by Eurofins NTD, LLC. The methods and performance characteristics have been reviewed and approved by the New York State Department of Health.