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Triple or Quad Screening for Birth Defects

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How accurate is it? continued...

With the triple or quad test, there is a chance of getting a false-positive test result. This means that the test could show a problem when the baby doesn't have the problem. A false positive may be more likely with the triple screening than the quad screening.

A false-positive result can cause stress and lead to unnecessary testing (such as an amniocentesis). Many women who have a positive screening test result are actually carrying a healthy baby.

Sometimes negative test results can be wrong too. They may show that the baby is fine when he or she does have a birth defect. (This is a false-negative test result.)

Your doctor will use your age and your baby's age to interpret the test results. If your test results are abnormal, your doctor may use a fetal ultrasound to make sure of your baby's age.

What do the results mean?

A "positive" result means that there is a higher-than-average chance your baby has a birth defect. If the result is "negative," or normal, it means that your baby probably doesn't have a birth defect. But it doesn't guarantee that you will have a normal pregnancy or baby.

Your doctor may tell you the result of your test as a set of numbers. Doctors often use a certain number as a cutoff for a positive result. For example, your doctor may say the cutoff is 1 out of 200. This means that if your result is 1 out of 200 or 1 out of a number less than 200 (such as 1 out of 100), you have a positive result and your baby has a higher chance of a birth defect. If your result is 1 out of 300, this means that you have a negative result and your baby has a lower chance of a birth defect.

What do you do with the results?

If you have a positive test result, your doctor may want you to have the diagnostic test amniocentesis to find out for sure if there is a problem. But it's your choice whether to have another test.

If you have a negative result, you may choose not to have another test.

Should you have the triple or quad screening?

Deciding whether to have a test for birth defects is a personal decision. And it can be a hard choice. You need to think about what the results of a test would mean to you and how they might affect your choices about your pregnancy.

If you choose to have a test, you may want to talk with a genetic counselor. The counselor can talk with you about the reasons to have or not have the test. He or she can also help you find other resources for support and decision-making.

For more help on deciding about having a triple or quad screening, see the topic:

Pregnancy: Should I Have the Maternal Serum Triple or Quadruple Test?
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 04, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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