Reasons for Prenatal Testing

Many prenatal tests are routine for pregnant women. They give helpful information about you and your baby. Blood and urine tests, and ultrasounds carry little or no risk of harm. But, there are some tests that carry a higher risk of harm. These are used for women who have a high risk of problems during pregnancy.

A high-risk pregnancy includes:

  • Being 35 years and older
  • Being a teenager
  • A past premature birth
  • A past birth of a baby with a birth defect
  • Having 2 or more babies at the same time
  • Health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, or systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Ethnic background in which genetic problems are common—in the mother or the father
  • Family has a past with intellectual disability—in the mother or the father

You and your doctor will talk about the risks and benefits of certain tests. You can learn about the them, what they look for, and how reliable they are. This can make help you make an informed decision if another test shows a possible problem.

Couples may choose to have certain prenatal tests for different reasons such as to:

  • To allow for medical care if it is needed
  • Start planning for a child with special needs
  • Find support groups and resources to help them learn more
  • Make a decision about whether or not to continue the pregnancy


Chorionic villus sampling: CVS. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: Updated September 2, 2016. Accessed July 2, 2019.
Practice bulletin no. 145: antepartum fetal surveillance. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;124(1):182-192. Reaffirmed 2019.
Prenatal genetic diagnostic tests. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: Updated January 2019. Accessed July 2, 2019.
Prenatal genetic screening tests. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: Updated July 2017. Accessed July 2, 2019.
Prenatal tests. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Updated August 2018. Accessed July 2, 2019.
Routine prenatal care. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated May 31, 2019. Accessed July 2, 2019.
Last reviewed May 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated: 7/2/2019

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