What the  Maternal Serum Screening Test Results Mean

If you have received an abnormal test result, don’t panic. Abnormal test results indicate that your baby has an increased risk of neural tube defects or birth defects and that additional diagnostic testing is required.

It does not mean that your baby will definitely be born with a birth defect or anomaly. In fact, only 1% to 2% of women who have an abnormal test result will go on to have a baby with a birth defect.


If you are found to have higher levels of AFP protein, it may indicate the presence of neural tube defects or other birth defects in your baby. Lower AFP levels suggest that your child may have Down’s Syndrome or some other chromosomal abnormality.

In some cases, abnormal test results may only appear because the baby is older or younger than originally determined. Another reason for an abnormal test result is the presence of multiple births, such as twins or triplets. Smoking and drinking alcohol can also cause high levels of AFP to appear in the blood.


Abnormal Test Results

Starting in the 14th week of pregnancy, the level of AFP begins to rise. That is why it is important to accurately gage the gestational age of the fetus. So just what are abnormal results? Well, the average amount of AFP in a pregnant woman of 15 to 22 weeks is 19 to 75 international units per millimeter. If you are found to have exceptionally high or low AFP values, further testing, such as an ultrasound, will be used to determine the cause.



Who is a Candidate for the Test?

Alpha-fetoprotein levels are partly determined by a woman’s age, race, weight and if she has diabetes. You are a prime candidate to have this test if you:


  • Have a history of birth defects in the family
  • Are 35 years or older
  • Have used harmful medications during pregnancy
  • Have diabetes
Table of Contents
1. Maternal Serum Screening
2. Are your results abnormal?
3. Weigh the Pros and Cons
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