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Maternal and Fetal Testing Overview

Most people have healthy pregnancies, and their babies are born without trouble. But people with high-risk pregnancies often need to be closely watched for possible problems. Fortunately, many tests and procedures are available to keep track of the health of both the birth parent and the baby. Many of these pose little or no risk. They also can provide a lot of information to healthcare providers, midwives, and expectant parents.

But some types of testing and procedures do carry some risks to the birth parent, baby, or both. For this reason, if you are offered prenatal testing, it's important to ask your healthcare provider or midwife these questions:

  • Why is the test needed for my pregnancy?

  • What information will the test give?

  • What are the benefits of the test?

  • What are the risks, if any, to me and to my baby?

  • What other tests might be used instead?

  • Who will do the test?

  • Where will it be done?

  • How long does it take to get results?

  • Will the test results need more testing?

  • What are my choices based on the outcome of the test?

  • What are my choices if I choose to not have the test?

Some birth parents are more likely to need a closer watch on their pregnancy. This includes those who are very young or those who are older than age 35. The following health problems may also need testing:

  • The birth parent's pre-existing diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and heart disease

  • Abnormal amounts of amniotic fluid

  • Abnormal fetal growth

  • Multiple pregnancy (twins or more)

  • Postterm pregnancy

  • Obesity