Deciding about antenatal screening and testing


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Deciding about antenatal screening and testing

Some antenatal tests and types of antenatal screening are optional. You can decide whether different types of pregnancy testing and screening are right for you.

This article looks at what to take into account when making decisions about this aspect of your antenatal care:

Deciding on antenatal testing

Getting all of the information on antenatal tests 

Discussing your decision about antenatal testing with others

Further information

Deciding on antenatal testing

The various antenatal screening tests offered to you during pregnancy can help you find out more about your own health, and the health of your baby before or after she is born. However, you may feel unsure about which antenatal testing to ask for or accept during your antenatal care.

You can refuse any antenatal test or procedure that you do not want, or ask for more time if you are not ready to choose which test to have. Some tests need to be carried out at certain stages of pregnancy, but in most cases waiting a few days before you are certain of what you want will make no difference.

Before you decide, it is important that you (and your partner) think about the implications of pregnancy screening. You may find yourselves going through unnecessary worry while you wait to have a potential problem diagnosed or dismissed for certain. You may even find yourself having to make a decision about whether or not to continue your pregnancy. But remember, the majority of women have healthy babies.

You may need to ask for more information before you decide whether a particular test is right for you. When deciding, think about the advantages and disadvantages to having a test, your personal circumstances and how you and your partner feel about the possible outcomes. You should always be given time to think through your options. 

Getting all of the information on antenatal tests

You should be given written information in time to read and understand about the test you are being offered. Before you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to any test, make sure you are clear:

  • what the antenatal test involves
  • what it is testing for
  • whether it is a screening or diagnostic test
  • how long you will have to wait for the results
  • how you can expect to receive the results
  • what your options will be once you have received the results
  • who you can talk to when you get the results.

More information about tests is given in Foetal screening in pregnancy and in Down’s Syndrome test information. Babies with disabilities looks at what you might feel if you discover your baby might be disabled.

Discussing your decision about antenatal testing with others

You may want to talk to someone about how you feel about the antenatal test or pregnancy screening tests before deciding whether or not to go ahead. It may be you are not sure what action you would take if the test was positive, or you need more information about the support that would be available to you and your family whatever decision you make.

You may find it helpful to talk about the tests with other parents, your midwife or a doctor. NCT antenatal classes are a great way to get to know parents in your area, as well as feel more confident about labour and birth. You can also talk to the support organisation Antenatal Results and Choices. Remember, it is your decision.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. 

Antenatal Results and Choices is a national charity that provides information to expectant and bereaved parents throughout and after the antenatal screening and testing process. Telephone helpline: 0845 077 2290

NHS Choices gives full information on the checks and tests offered in pregnancy. 

Healthtalkonline offers shared experiences, videos and stories from 37 women and 8 couples from the UK. Topics include making decisions about screening, including those that have and have not ended the pregnancy.

RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) offers a guidance sheet about amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling.

Contact a Family is UK-wide charity supporting families with disabled children.

Genetic Alliance UK is a national charity of patient organisations supporting all those affected by genetic disorders.