Antenatal and newborn screening tests are used to identify people at risk of a health problem therefore enabling them to potentially access effective treatment or make informed decisions about their health or that of their unborn baby.
Screening tests are not perfect and in some cases you may be told there is a potential high probability of a condition when in fact, this may not be the case.
Screening tests for you and your baby
Katie is expecting a baby. During her pregnancy, she’ll be offered several screening tests, to check for health conditions that could affect her, or her baby.
Katie can choose which tests, if any, she wants. During the first 10 weeks of her pregnancy she’s offered screening for sickle cell and thalassaemia.
These are blood conditions that can be passed from parents, to their children, through their genes. The baby’s father may also be offered a test. If both parents are carriers, it doesn’t mean they have the condition, but there’s a chance that they can pass it on to their baby.
Between 8 and 12 weeks of pregnancy, a midwife offers her a blood test for three infectious diseases: HIV, Hepatitis B and syphilis. She can choose which, if any, of these to be tested for. Screening for these three infections is best done in early pregnancy, but they can be offered at any time.
If Katie has diabetes, she’ll be offered eye screening during her pregnancy. At some point between 10 and 14 weeks of pregnancy, Katie is offered the combined test.
This is an ultrasound scan and blood test, looking for down’s syndrome, edward’s syndrome and patau’s syndrome. If the combined test cannot be done, she can have the quadruple test up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. This looks for down’s syndrome only.
Between 18 and 21 weeks of her pregnancy, Katie is offered another ultrasound scan called the 20 week scan. It looks for 11 physical conditions in her baby, for example, relating to the bones, heart and brain.
Towards the end of her pregnancy, a midwife will discuss the screening offered for her newborn baby, so she knows what to expect.
Katie’s offered a physical examination for Thomas, within three days of him being born. This screens for conditions affecting his heart, eyes and hips. As he’s a boy, his testicles will be checked too. A hearing test will also be offered.
Depending where they live, this may be in the hospital, or at home. When Thomas is five days old a midwife will offer the blood spot test. Also known as the heel prick test. This involves taking a few drops of blood from the heel.
It screens for 9 rare, but serious conditions, such as cystic fibrosis.
Remember, screening is always a choice. You can decide which tests, if any, are right for you and your baby.
For more information or support, speak to a midwife or doctor.
We offer six screening programmes for you and your baby:
- Infectious disease screening.
- Sickle cell and thalassaemia.
- Fetal Anomaly Screening, which includes Down’s Edward’s and Patau’s screening, following your dating scan. Your mid-pregnancy scan is usually performed between 18 weeks and 20 weeks and 6 days gestation.
- Newborn hearing screen.
- Physical examination of your baby within 72 hours of birth, which includes 4 specific tests, the eyes, heart, hips and for boys their testes.
- Newborn bloodspot testing for 9 rare conditions performed on day 5 following delivery.
These are all explained more fully in the booklet from Gov.UK Screening Tests for You and Your Baby.
If any of your screening tests require further investigation you will be contacted by the Screening Coordinator to discuss these further.
Sexual health and wellbeing in pregnancy
The risk of acquiring HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis does not end with a negative antenatal screening result taken at your first booking appointment.
Did You Know?
- 56.4% of babies born with congenital syphilis in the UK between 2015 and 2021 were born to women with a negative antenatal screening result, meaning they acquired syphilis during pregnancy after screening
- 62.3% of children with vertically (mother-to-child) acquired HIV between 2006 and 2021 were born to women diagnosed with HIV after pregnancy. The vast majority of women had a negative screening result in pregnancy, meaning they acquired HIV during the pregnancy or while breastfeeding
Rescreening is available
Re-screening can be offered at any point in your pregnancy if you have any of the following risk factors:
- A change of sexual partner
- If you or your partner(s) are sexually active with other people
- If your partner is diagnosed with a Sexually transmitted Infection
- Injecting recreational drugs
- Involvement in sex work
Please speak to your midwife or doctor if you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the above questions and our team can support a further screening appointment.
Antenatal pathway for higher risk pregnancy
This document explains the antenatal pathway for women deemed of higher risk in pregnancy:
What syphilis is and what increases risk of infection
Syphilis is an infection passed on through sexual contact. It can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy.